Sometimes it’s nice to read something that’s just a little bit left of centre. I enjoy being taken by surprise by a book, especially when I’m thinking I’m heading into one genre and I find myself in quite a different one all together…
Stage Fright, by Marianne Delacourt (Allen and Unwin) is very much like this. Having not read either of the previous Tara Sharp stories, when I started to read this most recent instalment, I was expecting a detective novel. I was prepared for a little rock and roll and some hot Queensland weather, but not quite so ready for the particular ‘skills’ that Tara possesses and uses to her great advantage.
It starts off simply enough of course…
Things are a bit hot for Tara Sharp in Perth, so she jumps at the chance to leave her home town when a music promoter offers her a gig looking after a difficult musician who’s touring Brisbane.
Though minding musicians isn’t Tara’s usual line of work, the money is good and she’s a sucker for a backstage pass. Respite from her mother – with her not-so-subtle hints about ‘eligible young men’ and ‘suitable jobs’ – is also a plus, as is the time and distance to try and resolve her mixed up romantic life.
Arriving in ‘BrisVegas’, Tara finds her hands full dealing with the bizarre habits of the ‘artist’, not to mention his crazy fans. And it’s not long before she discovers that the music industry can be more cut-throat than she imagined, and it can be very dangerous messing with the big boys…
Tara is happy with her job, but not so much with her bank balance. Her choice of occupation sees Tara living in a bungalow in her parent’s backyard, an arrangement that makes neither Tara or her parents particularly happy. She’s the first to admit that saying yes to the next big job to come along is a very good idea. Not only that, but Tara’s being asked to use her unique skills to help out a mate’s mate – she just can’t say no. And so, leaving her Monaro and her almost-boyfriend behind, she hops a plane to Brisbane.
Tara’s job is to find out information. To ask the right questions, to follow her nose and to use her special sight to unpick mysterious situations…
“Paolo’s aura took on a light brown tint. I guessed that if he was healthier then the colour would normally be a deep tan. People in the tan spectrum tended to be practical and hard-nosed. You don’t push people with tan auras too much because they push back tenfold. I had to head this off at the pass before Stuart lost him on pure stubbornness.”
And it works, but not without its fair share of close shaves and bum leads. Whilst standing in the line of fire to protect the bizarre and troubled musician Slim Sledge, and digging around for information where others fear to tread, Tara finds herself wrestling crazed fans and beating off underworld heavies with her fists and a barbequed duck! Her case has no shortage of dramatic episodes and crazy twists.
Delacourt’s novel is fast-paced, witty and fun. It’s jam packed with popular references, creating a really enjoyable sense of time and place. If you know Perth or Queensland at all you’ll feel particularly at home.
Tara is a great character, pragmatic and strong in her work and her self, but she’s also hopelessly conflicted when it comes to love and friendships. This of course creates some really entertaining twists and turns and creates a really likeable character.
If you like female-lead crime and mysteries, Stage Fright will be just the book for you. Great summer reading, it’s a quick, punchy read.
This book was reviewed by Mandi Johnston, for her blog That Book You Like… You may also enjoy a visit to the TBYL website for lots of bookish fun!