The Bahamas: The place where anything can happen - fun in the sun, beautiful women, exotic drinks. A place of great wealth and great poverty, often within a mile of each other. It’s a place where, as Don Bruns writes as a sort of refrain in his latest Mick Sever novel, Bahama Burnout, “You could have it all in the Bahamas.”
Mick is a rock and roll journalist, and in this novel he is in Nassau, Bahamas, the home of the legendary Highland Studio where many famous acts have recorded hit albums, including Eric Clapton, the Alman Brothers, and Sheryl Crow. How can he write a good story, though, when the studio’s owner keeps telling him that everything he tells him is “off the record,” and when he has to deal with ghosts, murders, and the syndicate?
The band Johnny Run is trying to recapture their old magic and make a hit record with the help of the studio’s engineer and owner, Jonah Britt. The last one they made there was less than stellar, but someone else produced and engineered the album - Be-Bop (or Bobby) Baron. They’re hoping that with Britt doing the honors and with their new manager, Teddy Bartholomew, replacing Grant Davis, who made the fateful decision to go with Be-Bop, they’ll again become a multimillion selling band.
But that might be a little difficult, what with a possible spirit haunting the studio, a man who was killed in a fire that came close to burning the place down. The ghost - or person pretending to be one - plays hijinx like destroying Sheryl Crow’s Gibson, stealing money, and taking the bass guitar of Stretch from the band Johnny Run and selling it to the local Hard Rock with a forged autograph.
Not only that, but Johnny Run’s old manager is in town, wanting his job back, pressured by the syndicate - who’ve made a heavy investment in the band - to make sure the record they’re working on will be a big success. If not, Grant Davis is told, he might be killed; a thug who wants Davis to realize the seriousness of the situation beats him up. Grant’s precarious position makes him one of the most likely suspects when Bartholomew turns up dead, seated in a Cadillac that next-door neighbor Etta May owns and claims used to belong to Elvis Presley. Teddy has a joint in his mouth, and someone has removed his eyes.
Who can be behind the murder? Sever, the Britts, and the cops want to know. The person who appears to have the best motive is Grant Davis, since he has made it clear that he wants to be Johnny Run’s manager again. Also, his fingerprints are inside the Caddy. Even the criminal organization that’s been funding Johnny Run thinks Grant killed Teddy and tell him he’s gone too far.
Would even Grant be so twisted to gouge out Bartholomew’s eyes, or is it the work of the “spirit” who’s been causing havoc at the studio? Are the missing eyes supposed to be a message that the ghost is: “Trying to destroy sights and sounds,” like the Obeah man, akin to a voodoo witch doctor, tells Jonah’s wife, Rita?
Sever believes that there’s a more logical explanation to the mysterious occurrences that have been going on, though seeing a voodoo doll pinned to his motel bed late one night with pins in its eyes is a bit unsettling. Who made the doll and put it in his room? Someone doesn’t want Sever to get at the truth - but who?
Bahama Burnout is an entertaining, highly charged mystery and a great addition to Don Brun’s Mick Sever series. The title is also the name of a high-octane alcoholic beverage (the recipe is inside the book) before the story begins. Stuff to Die For and Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, two non-Mick Sever novels by Bruns, are also excellent and well worth reading. The musical references alone make Bahama Burnout worth the cover price. Recommended to anyone who loves the mystery/thriller genre.