Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
Jeffrey Deaver’s characters weave in and out of his series. XO, which features kinesiologist Kathryn Dance, is either the third or the fifth to her name, depending on how important you consider her appearances to be. Similarly, as his ramp comes down, this could be the tenth Lincoln Rhymesnovel. People interact.
If Lincoln Rhymes arrives in town, though, you can bet that his friend has invited him. That is not the case with Kayleigh Towne, the up and coming country and western singer, though, and her admirer Edwin Sharp. Edwin’s visits are unwelcome to say the least. Some might say that Edwin is a stalker, though when asked Edwin describes himself as no more than a concerned fan. After all, who would not be concerned about an unnatural death, a tumble from a high stage with the cushion boxes beneath removed, especially one that had been heralded by telephone calls of Kayleigh’s music? Nor the fear that that could be only the first mortality inspired by a golden voice.
When she is not at work for the California Bureau of Investigation as a body language specialist, and not mothering her children, and not wondering which of her two lovers she will marry, Kathryn has an interest and it has taken her to Fresno in the San Joaquin Valley. She plans to record music among the agricultural workers, as Alan Lomax did long before. Fortuitously, it is the town where her friend Kayleigh Towne is planning a special concert, if nerves or death do not get her first.
Off duty and travelling without her gun, Kathryn can only advise the local police department. The police, modernising but stretched to cover a large geographical area, cannot watch everyone. Someone who knew that could plant a cigarette in a branch, to burn in the night, like the red eye of a stalker. And someone who went out to hunt said figure, might on finding they had been misled, return to find something had happened in their starting place. That could be a theft, it could be a shot fired, or it could be a garbage bag. In XO, a garbage bag could be a happening, though you’ll have to find out why.
Kayleigh Towne is a troubled character before her stalking problems begin, and despite her ability to transmute her troubles into song, they will continue after Kathryn Dance has tied up this case. Jeffrey Deaver has put his knowledge of the music business into XO – there will be songs online available, too, at publication time – but he does have not solutions, either. Along the way some of his characters try approaches as varied as negotiating new contracts and murdering online music pirates, but I am not sure that any of those will work in the long-term.
XO does not have a large cast of characters, and perhaps is overlong, with Rhymes making only a token appearance and Kathryn finding herself frozen out of the investigation, her kinesiology under-used. So if asked what I would have preferred, I would reply with a musical analogy – let’s get back to three minutes.