Review: Dying to be Famous by David Hiltbrand

Posted: July 15, 2014 in Reviews
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This review was first posted at West of Mars. It’s being reposted here, at its new permanent home.

It’s sad to see a trilogy come to a close, even when the series has been an uneven one. Such is the case with David Hiltbrand’s series featuring recovering addict Jim McNamara.

Dying to be Famous is the third in the series, and I continue to think the main character and his addiction is the selling point. I’ve read other addicted detectives before, of course—who hasn’t?—but I don’t think I’ve read any that have given me such a clear glimpse into what it’s like to live life with an addiction.

In this adventure, Jim travels to LA, where he’s been hired, after much wooing, to find out who killed the leading contender on a show that’s suspiciously like American Idol. And that’s putting it mildly.

It’s a great plot, centered around a world that Rock Fiction was overdue to explore. (Mind you, Dying to be Famous is copyright 2007, which goes to show how far behind the eight ball your favorite expert here is.) And this book certainly takes us behind the scenes and lets us see the grimy underside of TV. I have no qualms about the authenticity of Jim’s surroundings, as has been the case in the other books in the series. This man knows the music business (as well he should. Go read his bio, if you haven’t yet).

The problem with the book is that it takes too long to get going. By the time I felt like Hiltbrand was done setting up the scenario and the suspects, I had hit the three-quarters mark. Which means that all the fun I’d been having up to that point—and it was fun, don’t get me wrong—wound up being rushed to an ending that didn’t do this book justice.

It’s a good read, but the best in the series, far and away, remains Deader than Disco, the second book. If you’re only going to read one, that’s my pick.

Not quite a West of Mars Recommended Read, but not one to ignore, either.

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