on October 22, 2003
Barbados Heat, the second offering from the pen of Don Bruns, continues to follow the fortunes of rock journalist and unrepentant ladies man Mick Sever. Along with his ex-wife Ginny, Mick is off to Barbados to track down the murderer of a U.S. Senator. As in Jamaica Blue, the well received debut of the Sever series, the cops think they have the killer, but Severisn't so sure. Since the alleged mastermind is the Senator's son and Mick's former best friend, Sever has an even greater stake in discovering the truth.
The list of characters, from the Barry White-like producer who assists Sever, to the various rap stars who appear to be involved in the murder to the Senator's family that takes the fun out of dysfunctional, help speed the book along at a rapid pace.. Particularly poignant and real is the Senator's daughter who has rejected all the "advantages" of her father's power to live in poverty with an abusive spouse.
Again, Bruns provides a fascinating look at the inner workings of the music industry, but here the passions and prejudices that lead to murder could happen to anyone. And you may find yourself on the last few pages with your own list of suspects still in double figures. A great followup to Jamaica Blue!
on December 6, 2003
One of the joys of reading is being able to pick up a novel by an author with whom you're not familiar and finding yourself, hours later, with the book firmly in hand, unable to put it down. I recently had that experience with Don Bruns and BARBADOS HEAT.
There is really no excuse for my unfamiliarity with Bruns. Bruns's home base is Lima, Ohio (like the bean, not the city in Peru), only a couple of hours away from where I sit right now. I've been to Lima many times; my winter trips there help me to understand why Bruns spends a good deal of time in the Caribbean and why he sets his novels there. JAMAICA BLUE, his first novel, introduced rock music journalist Mick Sever, and BARBADOS HEAT heralds his, and Bruns's, return. You don't need to be familiar with JAMAICA BLUE to enjoy or follow the events of BARBADOS HEAT, though you'll certainly want to become familiar with the former once you've finished reading the latter.
Bruns is a master storyteller. His background in advertising is evident in the way he sets things up and moves the reader right along. He does not write cookie cutter mysteries, however. BARBADOS HEAT is a complex story wherein the misdeeds of the past suddenly and dramatically affect the present.
The book begins with the murder of Congressman Robert Shapply. Shapply, a former music mogul who has seen the light and the error of his past ways, is on the verge of holding Congressional hearings concerning the content of rap music lyrics. Shapply's past business dealings --- particularly, his penchant for ripping off his former clients --- mean that the police are not lacking for suspects. Almost immediately, however, Nicky Brand, Shapply's stepson, and a rapper named Chilli D are accused of the murder. The case appears to be airtight; there is bad blood between Shapply and Brand because of Shapply's past business dealings, and the murder weapon is found in Chilli D's possession. The fact that Chilli D is heavily in debt to Brand, and that Shapply's hearings had the potential to permanently damage both of their careers, only makes matters worse.
Mick Sever, on the verge of a long-awaited vacation, initially turned down the opportunity to cover Shapply's hearings for a tabloid. But when Shapply is murdered, Sever is reluctantly drawn into the mix not only because of his curiosity but also because of his former friendship with Brand, a friendship that was irrevocably ruined when Brand's and Shapply's business practices almost drove Sever into bankruptcy. Sever's old friend Tony "T-Beau" Beauregard is there to help, as he also has a stake in the matter, being Chilli D's manager. Sever additionally recruits Ginny, his ex-wife, ostensibly to assist him with research. He is also, however, motivated by his own unresolved feelings for Ginny. Sever is almost convinced of Chilli D's guilt and Brand's culpability. But when Shapply's chauffeur is also murdered, it becomes obvious that there are other issues and individuals involved.
Sever, with the help of T-Beau, begins an investigation that leads from Washington D.C. to Sarasota, Florida, and ultimately down to Barbados, where a decades-old killing of a young girl holds the key to the motive behind the Congressman's murder and places Sever, T-Beau and Ginny in terrible danger.
BARBADOS HEAT is an incredibly fast-paced tale. Its complex plot would suffer in lesser hands. Bruns, however, is a master at keeping things moving, rendering the difficult easily understandable. This book will put Bruns's name on the 'A' List of many readers, and deservedly so. Highly recommended.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
on February 8, 2004
When sitting down to a great meal logic would say to eat slowly, savor every bite, make the enjoyment last. Unfortunately I tend to be more like a little kid with dessert and eat quickly, and then sit wanting more. I mention this because this is similar to reading the latest Don Bruns book. Barbados Heat is wonderful and I wanted to make it last. I wanted to savor it. But I just couldn't. I read fast, like a reader starved for adventure through words. Bruns writes with an inviting style that makes you want to come in and stay a while. His characters are quickly old friends.
In this, his second book, the main character, Mick Sever is heading off on vacation to relax after his latest book tour. Mick is a writer who knows the music world well and first hand. And he writes about it like a true visionary. His vacation is quickly interrupted, in truth before it begins. His childhood friend Nick Shapply has been arrested for murdering his step-father. Senator Robert Sahppley had a lot of people who would like him dead
but Mick is pretty sure Nick wasn't the one to do it. So with a deal for a story of the case, Mick sets to finding out what is going on and who did what. His ex wife meets him in DC to help with the writing. Full of intrigue, strange family matters and
This is a wonderful book and full of some very great moments. It reads smooth and easy, almost like good music playing on a summer afternoon. I would recommend to any fan of the mystery genre.
Author of Interrogations, a book of mystery author interviews
on December 3, 2003
This was my introduction to Mr. Bruns's work, and a most enjoyable one.
BARBADOS HEAT is what I've dubbed a "movie book." The pleasure in reading it has more to do with settling back to enjoy the action and the characters and the scenery without demanding to be anything more than entertained than with any consideration of inspiring philosophical debate. Certainly, anyone with a modicum of deductive reasoning will have figured out who killed the Congressman long before the final dramatic confrontation, so the mystery isn't its strong point. What makes this book a winner is that getting there is so much fun.
Mr. Bruns doesn't waste words, and his lean style is perfect for his material. His protagonist, while certainly carrying a fair load of angst, doesn't wallow in it, which might lead the less-discerning to suppose he is, thereby, shallow. However, there are just enough hints dropped throughout to eliminate that possibility. Mick Sever might not be a candidate for bodhisatva, but he has more depth than he might like those around him to know about.
For pure entertainment and reading pleasure, BARBADOS HEAT is a perfect choice.
This 2nd Mick Sever novel hits the spot. You do get two murderers for the price of one, but unfortunately neither one is like to be a great surprise to the seasoned mystery reader. The trip to the final destination is however quite entertaining, and the many references to pop, rock, and rap personalities are an enhancement for the music fan.
on November 7, 2003
Florida Congressman Robert Shapply used to champion the rights of rappers. Now along with his wife he plans to push a ban on the violence, drugs, rape and other evils that permeate throughout the lyrics of many rap tunes. The couple plan to host hearings on violence and porn that the entertainment world nonchalantly offers our children. However, before he can begin his crusade as only a convert could, someone kills Robert just outside his DC townhouse.
The police arrest Robert's stepson Nick Brand. His childhood best friend music reporter Mick Sever, who is still angry with his buddy over an incident from a few years ago, offers to investigate when the accused persuades him that he innocent. As the inquiries take him through the nightmarish violence of rap music, the weird Shapply extended family, and ultimately Barbados, thugs try to stop Mick and a killer stalks him.
The who-done-it is a solid puzzler that is filled with numerous viable suspects with motives. The hero at times seems too egotistical as to his greatness, but what do you expect from a reviewer as it is easier to criticize than create. Still fans will appreciate his dogged determination to uncover the truth even if it is hard to accept a music critic as an amateur sleuth. The support cast consists of escapess from weird city, but in some strange manner enhance the story line. Fans of a different rap will enjoy BARBADOS HEAT, a solid detective tale.