Authors: Ingela Bohm
Pages/Word Count: 255 Pages
At a Glance: Two rockers reach a crossroads in their relationship and their music.
Reviewed By: Ben
Blurb: After ten years of hard work, rock band Pax are enjoying a stable career, but not everyone rejoices in their success. Just weeks into their first holiday in years, a family files a complaint against them for causing their son’s death. Their lawyer assures them the lawsuit will go away quietly–after all, a rock band can’t be blamed for some poor kid’s fate on the streets.
Or can they? This is the eighties, at the height of the moral panic surrounding heavy metal, and no accusation is too ridiculous. When Jamie takes on a guitar pupil who pushes the boundaries of artistic freedom, he starts to question his own responsibility for what he puts out. At the same time, Michael meets a former bully who insinuates that Michael wasn’t as innocent a victim as he thinks.
While Michael fights his personal battle against demons from his past, he also prepares to give evidence on the part of the band in a court of law. The question isn’t just whether Pax will survive this latest blow–it’s whether Michael will.
Review: The setting of this story takes place in Britain, in the eighties, which makes it technically a historical by today’s standards (I apologise for making us all feel old). The details around rock music and the various locations the protagonists traveled were interesting and well thought out, and overall, I enjoyed the book, especially the conflicts between the two protagonists.
The point-of-view was split between Michael and Jamie, who are in their thirties, and have been dating since high school. They’ve been on tour most of their lives, and after some legal trouble with the band, they find themselves being forced to go on holiday, sort of stuck in the rootless existence they’ve built together. Because of their history with each other, and the fact they were going through similar crossroads, oftentimes I felt as if they were the same person. Even when the POV changed, it was hard for me to discern between the two (made more complicated because it was in third person). I found it telling that throughout the novel, Michael and Jamie would recognize great differences in each other—while I found them so similar—and I wondered if that was intentional, that neither of our protagonists could see that part of themselves in the other. Definitely thought-provoking.
From the blurb, I was under the impression the novel was more of a mystery/thriller, but it turned out to be a historical drama. Because I was expecting the story to build up in a familiar mystery plotline fashion, I was a bit taken back when some themes were emphasised more or less than others. However, that isn’t a bad thing. While the external drama took a backseat, it did nudge the plot forward, and it gave the story a wide scope. But the clear star of the show was the tension was between Michael and Jamie. Their internal conflicts were incredible and intricate, and quite a bit of the story was spent addressing how Michael was becoming obsessed with metal to give himself a confidence boost, while Jamie wanted a family, and both were initially reluctant to support each other in those goals.
While those conflicts were handled spectacularly, and I thoroughly enjoyed them, I suppose I was sort of hoping for a more catastrophic upheaval around those themes, and I later wondered if perhaps I had missed the point to the story. That confusion—along with me initially thinking this was a mystery—made me reflect a bit on my own expectations. Admittedly, when I read, part of me craves the point where everything crumbles around our characters, and they have to build themselves up from the ashes. But another part of me recognizes not all stories need those sorts of fireworks.
Though this novel wasn’t Swedish noir, and it wasn’t as active as I would have liked, the characters and language were delightful. I love reading stories set outside the United States. It makes my world a bit bigger, even if it’s my fantasy world, and that feeling is truly priceless.
You can buy Cutting Edge here: