Reviewed by Nina Larson for Reader Views (8/06)
Ahhhh, 1972. Was it a time of flowers, free love, new starts, and new opportunities? Oh, wait. That was 1971. In Ken Kuhlken's new book The Do-Re-Mi, the summer of 1972 was supposed to be just like it. Except Ken's main character learns the hard way that chasing the past can be unsettling as nothing stays the same. And sometimes trying to go back to utopia can be murder.
The book starts with Clifford Hickey heading to a folk music festival where he expects a week of bonding with his brother, hanging out with other musicians, and playing on stage the last day with a faint hope of landing an agent to get his music career going. He figures if he's lucky, he'll get another opportunity to skinny dip with beautiful hippies. He isn't lucky.
The utopia he remembers as being occupied by hippies, returned war veterans, and the locals of the small town of Evergreen has changed. Amazing what greed and drugs will do. The hippies had discovered that free love was wonderful, but eating was good and getting high was even better. In this case you could say money did grow. It just wasn't legal. And the money had attracted bikers. Not the bikers of today, where lawyers ride $30,000 Harleys on weekends, but the biker gangs of 1972. Guys that liked drugs, violence, and money - and not necessarily in that order. The locals were caught in between. Scared of the bikers and contemptuous of the hippies, but needing the money brought in by both.
This combination had been simmering all summer and the week before Clifford arrived, it had reached flash point with the death of a young local. Unfortunately for Clifford, the local police believed his ex-convict war veteran brother had done the deed. Clifford refused to believe that and set out to prove it. As an outsider and brother to a rumored killer, he certainly had his work cut out for him.
In this coming-of-age story, Clifford learns some hard truths about himself, and about the nature of forgiveness. He also learns that greed, revenge, and passion are the motives for crimes. And of course, stupidity can be a factor too.
This book is for any mystery fan, in just about any age range. I highly recommend this to anyone who lived though the late `60's and early `70's, and especially those who have suspicious blanks in their memories during that time. Military veterans might like this book since I suspect the more things change the more they stay the same. All in all, Ken Kuhlken has written a solid mystery. Both a murder mystery and a mystery about Clifford and what makes people tick. My favorite bit of writing is on page 228, about blame and forgiveness. However, I'll let you read it for yourself since it would be a spoiler for the book if I quoted it.
As a compulsive reader, I love good compulsive writers, and I was happy to learn that this was the fourth book about the Hickey family by Ken Kuhlken. And of course, I wonder if he intends to write a fifth about the family. Provided he can find a way out of the corner he backed his characters into. "I couldn't imagine a future..." pp.228.
Received book free of charge.