Documentary maker Antonia Carlyle uncovers dark secrets when she researches the cult ’80s band, The Tough romantics, and its doomed singer Genevieve James. The iconic band’s rise to international fame had as much to do with their cutting edge sound as their history of tragedy, betrayal and murder.
The deeper Antonia digs, the stranger the circumstances surrounding Genevieve’s death seem. Was the wrong man charged with murder? Do the surviving band members know more than they’ve revealed? How far will they go to hide the truth?
Antonia must face her own demons and those that haunt the St Kilda terrace house where the band tore itself apart decades before. As the past spills into the present, Antonia’s growing psychic link with the dead girl feeds her obsession to find the truth.
But will it be enough to lay Genevieve’s ghost to rest?
Rowena Cory Daniells was one of my favourite author discoveries this year. I’ve read both of her currently in print trilogies and her recently released e-book novella and loved each and every one of them, though to be honest, some more than others. However, she doesn’t just write epic fantasy, this year she also published a paranormal crime novel under the pen name RC Daniells. I was fortunate to receive a review copy and I was curious to see how The Price of Fame would differ from Daniells’ other work in the writing style. The book was very different, but at the same time just as good and I had a fantastic time with it.
The book contains two stories, that of Antonia Carlyle and her attempt to not just get her documentary series funded, but also to solve the mystery of Genevieve’s murder and that of Pete O’Toole, as told to his neighbour, and friend, Joe Walenski, about the last week of Genevieve’s life. It’s a structure that works really well and I liked the way the stories where interwoven, with Antonia reading it one chapter at a time, along with the reader. It creates a narrative tension as the reader gets to discover the same clues Antonia does, without immediately getting her interpretation of the facts and thus is left free to come to her own conclusions. This structure also allows for the reader to be just as surprised at the resolution of the tale as Antonia is. One shares her impatience to get the next part of O’Toole’s story and creates a strong connection between the reader and both Antonia and Genevieve.
Both stories are strong and surprisingly, even if I knew it was impossible, I kept hoping for a happy ending for O’Toole and Genevieve. This is largely due to the strength of the characters. Daniells manages to make all of her important characters – both in the past and in the present day – well-rounded and some of them are quite compelling. All of them have issues: Antonia has an abusive past and abandonment issues and as such has built barriers a meter thick around herself; Genevieve is on the run from a broken family, ripped apart by tragedy; Monty hides his feelings behind a deep, dark, and mysterious persona; O’Toole has seen his entire live turned upside down by the breakdown of his marriage and his need to start over. But despite this, they are all decent people at bottom. The band members and Joe are the only ones to feature extensively in both stories and it was interesting to see how they were developed. Their past personas are echoed in the future and the reader’s knowledge of their future selves influences perceptions of their past selves. Somehow Daniells manages to make all of them suspicious, whether they are portrayed as sympathetic or not, without turning it into a paranoia-fest.
The supernatural element in the novel was both interesting and a little convoluted. At first it seems the paranormal activity is limited to Antonia’s sensitivity and her being haunted by Veevie, which I loved, but it turns out there’s more to it and while I get why, I would have liked it to just have been Veevie and the rest to have been just human nature. However, I do have to say that it was built up to quite well and the character of Mad Moll in the storyline set in the past was very cool. Her fetishes and charms sounded both lovely and creepy and one wonders whether they would have worked.
The writing in The Price of Fame was very different from Daniells’ other work, though it also had some shared traits in the form of strong characters and the same ease in writing tension-filled relationships. The tension between Antonia and Monty was amazing and at times very funny to read. The way he helps her heal from her past, just as the project and Veevie help her to move on, was very touching and I was very much rooting for them throughout the whole book. But this book isn’t about Antonia being saved by a guy, it really isn’t. It’s about Antonia saving herself, allowing herself to move on and consciously deciding to allow herself to let things go. One of the most powerful scenes in the book for me was one in which she consciously forgives her mother. The sense of freedom she described and the relief was very touching.
I had a fantastic time with The Price of Fame and the characters stuck in my head whenever I had to put the book away. If you enjoy Daniells’ epic fantasy tales, this is another book you’ll want to check out. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, because you don’t enjoy epic fantasy, then this book is a perfect way to be introduced to her writing. The Price of Fame is an exciting paranormal crime story, though the emphasis is more heavily on the paranormal than the crime. Personally, I’m looking forward to reading the next book Daniells will have on offer for us, whatever sub-genre it is, but I hope she’ll write more paranormal crime/urban fantasy books in the future.
This book was provided for review by the author.