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by David Hiltbrand
Harper, December 2006
224 pages
ISBN: 0060554150

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Half the fun of David Hiltbrand's neat little series featuring music business PI Jim McNamara is trying to guess who he's taking pot-shots at. And DYING TO BE FAMOUS is no exception.

This time around Hiltbrand, a music journalist, has gone after the reality TV shows. Here we have Star Maker, featuring the weirdest panel of judges and the saddest collection of untalented deadbeats since, well, the last series. Except here the favourite, Matt Hanes, has been bumped off.

McNamara, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, takes some persuading to fly over to Los Angeles from his home in Connecticut. But some offers you just can't turn down, and he finds himself racing to stop more of the wannabe stars from being murdered.

DYING TO BE FAMOUS feels the slightest of the books to date. It's an undemanding read, which I devoured in a couple of hours one afternoon. The plot is fairly routine and unsophisticated and the characterisation a bit flimsy. McNamara tells us how he's really a nasty person and how recovering addicts lie and scheme. But Hiltbrand doesn't develop his character enough to convince us of that.

The only character who does get some attention is McNamara's sidekick Whitey we see an unexpected side to him. Elsewhere, I could never remember who was who out of the contestants, and spent a fair bit of time flicking backwards and forwards to refresh my memory. Generally they were there as convenient props and not well-rounded characters.

The book also features a lightweight and slightly tiresome love thread. And we're asked to believe that show bosses wield enough power to stop the police investigating and insist everything is handed over to a PI.

So, DYING TO BE FAMOUS is a pleasant and easy read, if a little superficial. It felt like Hiltbrand was treading water with this one. Read the other two books in the series first.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, January 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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