||May 9, 2008
Rock & Roll Homicide chonicles the struggles of a young detective as he unravels the mystery of who murdered the leader of a major rock band.
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Just as the rock band, Doberman’s Stub, was about to reach stadium tour status, its leader was brutally murdered when his headphones exploded during a recording session. The widow, who inherits $5 million, is the San Diego Police Department’s number one suspect. She hires Jason Duffy, a 27-year-old PI in his first year of private practice, in spite of his background as a former musician.
Jason learns that the victim was also a very skilled contract negotiator, who was in the middle of an acrimonious renegotiation with the record company at the time of his death. He also finds that the record company has a very unhealthy tie to the Russian Mafia.
As an inexperienced detective, Jason does not yet have the contacts within the police department to gather vital information. He is forced to mend fences with his estranged father, an opinionated ex-SDPD detective.
While Jason investigates the record company, he also takes a close look at the three surviving members of the victim’s band. One is an alcoholic/drug addict drummer, on the verge of being kicked out of the group. The second is a bass player who camouflages his rock star status by living in an ordinary house in a lower middle-class neighborhood. Third is a lead guitarist and writer of half of the band’s songs, who lives well beyond his means.
Jason has not yet become hardened to the very real dangers of his new profession. We experience his inner conflict as his girlfriend, staff, and family are drawn into the danger zone.
After Jason’s part-time employee is severely beaten during a stakeout, he sells the story of the Russian Mafia’s involvement in the record business to a tabloid journalism TV show in a misguided effort to protect his employer and coworker. This serves to drive the case to new heights of danger and suspense.
Jason goes behind the industry veneer of sex & drugs & hedonistic lifestyles. He shows us how the 21st Century world of downloads, file sharing, and image demographics need to be considered in a case of Rock & Roll Homicide.
The author may be contacted for interviews at
As a musician I put up with drunks, hecklers and club owners who refused to pay up. In my three years as a mental health counselor I butted heads with several bureaucrats who routinely put their career self-interest far ahead of the needs of their clients. But these confrontations paled in comparison to what I knew I needed to do next. I had to ask my dad for a favor.
Midwest Book Review, 8/08
Sometimes one abandons one's dreams for a more lucrative career path. In "Rock & Roll Homicide," rookie private investigator Jason Duffy learns that his dream wasn't as glorious as he may have thought, when one of his first cases is the investigation of a murdered rock star. Duffy must hunt down the killer, all while reconsidering his new career path. A brilliantly written tale of sex, drugs, rock & roll, and the Mob. "Rock & Roll Homicide" is highly recommended for community library mystery collections.
Midwest Book Review
Beverly Ford, 20 year vet of the Boston Herald
Murder, music and the mob make a marvelous mix in RJ McDonnell's first novel "Rock and Roll Homicide," a delightfully witty and superbly crafted tale of novice detective Jason Duffy's investigation into the murder of a rising rock star.
The story revolves around the death of Terry Tucker, the hard-driving head of San Diego-based rock band Doberman's Stub, who was killed when his earphones exploded just as he was wrapping up work on the band's third CD - a promising release that was to shoot the group to superstardom.
The list of suspects in Tucker's death is enough to make even the most hard-nosed detective cringe. There's the rocker's wife, who stands to inherit a $5 million insurance payoff, record label executives with sinister ties to the Russian Mafia and his beleaguered band mates, including a hard-partying drummer and a singer/songwriter living well-beyond his means.
Toss in a cast of dysfunctional characters like Duffy's obsessive compulsive assistant, his retired police detective father and a photographer afflicted with Tourrette's Syndrome and you have all the makings for a fast-paced and funny look at life in the music business.
McDonnell takes the reader on a wild ride through the murder investigation, which has enough twists and turns to keep even the most hardened mystery lover intrigued. It's his insider's knowledge of the music industry, strong attention to detail and witty insights into the characters, however, that really makes this novel stand out.
Fast moving and at times laugh-out-loud hilarious, "Rock and Roll Homicide" has all the makings of a sure-fire winner. Anyone who loves murder, mysteries or music should pick it up.
As an avid reader, I've found McDonnell to be one of the most engaging, enjoyable, and funniest writers I've come across in a long, long time. With his smart style and well-crafted characters, "Rock and Roll Homicide" can easily break out to make McDonnell one of the most sought after new writers of his generation.
I, for one, am hoping McDonnell revives Duffy and his dysfunctional cast of characters in a second novel - or perhaps an entire series. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some astute movie executive signs up for the film rights to the Duffy franchise.
Here's hoping we see more of this novice detective - and more of McDonnell's sharp wit and clever writing in the future.
Former Media Relations Director of the Boston Police Department; 20 year veteran writer for The Boston Herald
Armchair Interviews, 9/08
Reviewed by Alex McGilvery
Rock & Roll Homicide introduces Jason Duffy, private investigator. Jason started out as a rock musician, much against his police officer father’s desires, then was a therapist before he became a private investigator. This mix of careers is important to Jason’s character and the story that R.J. McDonnell is telling. The fact that Jason hires previous clients provides some humor in the novel, but never at the expense of stereotyping the characters with mental illness.
Jason is asked to investigate the murder of rocker Terry Tucker just as his group was preparing to hit the big time. His client is Chelsea Tucker, the victim’s wife and the police’s primary suspect. The case dumps Jason back into the world of the professional rockers where his old connections are well positioned to help out. What he doesn’t have is an in at the police station, and he is forced to talk to his now retired father. During his investigations he discovers connections to the Russian Mafia and things start getting interesting and dangerous, fast.
While the mystery itself is not that complex, what really held my attention was the development of the characters that populate the book. The only time a stereotype is used is so it can be shattered a few pages on. Jason’s changing relationship with his father is as gripping as the main plot. He faces and deals with the temptations of re-entering the world of rock and roll.
All the various pieces work together believably and with a large dose of humor. Rock & Rock Homicide is a satisfying read. Everything works together for a well-thought-out ending. I was left looking forward to meeting Jason and his companions in more novels.
Armchair Interviews says: Wonderful character development.
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