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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Karen is a bit of an anomaly. But, then again, she’s an artist, a creative genius, a musical wonder. And it’s the music that speaks to her and it’s the music that is her language of communication. Her instrument of choice is the violin, but she also, on occasion, plays a big white Gretsch guitar, or a dobro. At one point, a fellow musician defines Karen as “our sparkler.” And that she is. You see, this young woman, this musical superstar genius, plays almost non-stop anywhere and everywhere, and from whatever moves her. She is on stage, in the wings; she plays for children in private gatherings and for crowds gathered underneath her balcony window. Music defines Karen. But since she’s anywhere and everywhere, the question that always arises is, “Where’s Karen?”
As with all popular musicians, Karen has attracted quite a diverse and colorful collection of followers, some not so respectful in their passion for Karen the musician and Karen’s music. A growing concern for Karen’s safety is sparked by the surprising and unexplained disappearances of women at various Karen events (as they are called). The women are drugged, carried away unnoticed, stripped naked, painted, videotaped, and shown on the internet. It is rather creepy, but the women are returned otherwise unharmed, or so it would seem, with no memory of what had transpired.
Greg Jolley’s mystery novel, Where’s Karen?, is a spectacular presentation of the world of popular music and the passions that revolve around the musicians, both on and off stage. The author certainly knows his music and has created wonderfully alive musical characters and settings. The plot develops rather slowly, but this can be overlooked by the musical interludes and performances that seem to dance through the narrative. The very mysterious and elusive Karen is defined in the purity of her music and the pristine whiteness of her unmarked skin, something that attracts the antagonist, the creepy artist who wants nothing more than to paint her. A hodgepodge of fascinating and mostly likeable characters in a very musical setting.