Book Review: The Missing Rock Star Caper by R. Parker McVey

by Emily LAWTON
 

The Missing Rock Star Caper is a Solve-it-Yourself/The-Choice-is-Yours mystery book. In it, the reader is cast into a world of intrigue and shady dealings not faced by your average high-school-aged supersleuth. It all starts with an early morning call from your incredibly hot cheerleader/candy striper friend, Debbi Lambswood. She claims that Bjorn Storm, a rock-and-roll star, has gone missing from the hospital. He’d been admitted the night before for injuries sustained during a concert. So you decide to go investigate.

Characters:

“you” — amateur detective
Debbi Lambswood — your friend, who is blonde and extremely hot.
Lt. Trapp — hard-bitten veteran detective from the local police force who doesn’t take kindly to nosy kids snooping around his crime investigations.
Dr. Vincent Cary — innocent staff member who is sometimes falsely implicated in Bjorn Storm’s disappearance.
Bjorn Storm — the dashing rock star who wears his blond hair with a blue streak. Rebellion. In the line drawing at the front of the book, he also wears his collar up. Awesome.
Bill Bentwick — the x-ray technician who is described by co-workers as “acting strangely.” He’s the one they would vote most likely to shoot up the place.
Sissy White — the sexy young nurse who, in one of the endings, is romantically linked with Bjorn Storm. As you’d expect, this little lassie is just a pawn in a bigger game.
Dr. Raymond Desmond — Chief of Staff at the hospital. A shady character who won’t hesitate to pump you full of sedatives.
Boston Borzoi — the bizarrely-named underground crime boss. He is responsible for most of your less-fortunate ends in the book.
Pappy — the only character not to get a last name, Pappy is the kind of good-natured old janitor that would end up being called Pappy. He wouldn’t hurt a fly, unless the fly were dirtying up his hospital — he cannot condone that. He’s a veritable gold-mine of clues, just waiting to be explored.

As a good friend, though, I should warn you about a few of the things that could happen to you, should you embark on this adventure: sedated via hypodermic needle, sedated via “mickeyed” soda, walled up in a secret room, locked in a storage closet bound and gagged, trapped in a full-body cast in the hospital, driven in a limo to the edge of town and dropped off, or kicked out of the hospital by security. And, one possibly dire ending: “Borzoi closes the door behind him, and takes a gun out of his pocket. For you, this may be…. THE END”

I must say, I am in favor books for young people wherein the threat of death to the reader is implied. But, in general, there are some problems with the book. In fact, some of the problems may be inherent to the choose-your-own-adventure genre. The first is: how does one read a book like this? My first adventure was just over two minutes. Obviously I made a poor choice when I hid behind the boxes rather than follow Bill Bentwick down the hall. Is that it, then? 117 pages condensed into two minutes? I remembered, the next time through, that the best way to read these books is to cheat. Read, make a choice, and then check it—while still keeping your finger on the options page. If the choice seems to continue, with further choices to move on in the story, then take it. If you see that big THE END, you know to simply flip back and take the other option. Simple. Cheating, maybe, but do readers have the time to complete the same adventure over and over again? I don’t. There are twenty-seven possible conclusions, but many of them are similar. Often two divergent paths lead to the same end page.

With this book, though, the major problem is that it’s unsatisfying to read. There’s the fact that you don’t know when you’re finished. Then there’s the way that many of the endings leave too many loose ends. Sometimes, you’ll find your friend Debbi Lambswood (always walled up in a secret basement room under the hospital), and that’s the end of the story. You might find her by chance, or by being tossed in beside her, but either way the adventure ends here: but what kind of amateur detective are you? Isn’t this The Missing Rock Star Caper? Don’t you think you should be finding that rock star? Is a little Cask of Amontillado action going to get in your way? Other times, your story will end with Bjorn Storm located, but Debbi still missing. There’s very seldom any motive given for the crimes, which any detective knows is essential to get a conviction.

While the text of the book left something to be desired, the drawings were more than I expected. Illustrator Jackie Roberts took black line on white background and managed to convey the whole range of human emotions that take place during an investigation of a rock star’s disappearance at a hospital. One complaint, though: I would’ve preferred that the “you” character never be shown. As written, “you” are gender neutral. In the drawings, a tow-headed young man with a side part and no bottom lip.

Overall, I’d say my expectations were high based on the word “caper” in the title, and those expectations weren’t met. Nonetheless, Jackie Roberts’ fine illustrations and threats of bodily harm to the reader take this book one notch above bad. C+.

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