Clifford Hickey is heading to Northern California for a final weekend before he goes to law school. He is going to sing at the folk festival in Evergreen with his brother Alvaro. The year before Evergreen had been settled by pot growing hippies. Now, in 1972, a biker gang, the Cossacks, has come in to shake down the hippies. They terrorize the locals. A week before Clifford had come in a woman had died avoiding a biker who purposefully rode out in front of her.
But now Clifford is looking for his brother. He finds Alvaro the morning after he arrives. But before he even gets his coffee poured, sheriffs come running into the camping area. Alvaro sees them coming, grabs his rifle, and runs. Clifford is grabbed by one of the officers and roughly handled, his hands cuffed so tightly he loses feeling in them. He is accused of being an accessory to murder. The sheriffs believe Alvaro killed one of the local young men. Clifford is thrown in jail with no regard. There he meets his first Cossack, Little Vic, the leader. He and Little Vic become enemies immediately.
Eventually Clifford is released due to lack of evidence. But now he is caught up in Evergreen's problems. No one wants to talk to him. The Cossacks are following him closely, threatening him, and at times carrying out some of the threats. He meets a woman who is a Jesus freak who is willing to help him. She soon becomes the only person he can trust as he tries to learn who really killed the teen and why. He knows Alvaro didn't do it. But Alvaro doesn't return to Evergreen or find Clifford. Clifford is on his own. Until he calls his father, retired detective Tom Hickey. Tom agrees to help, but stands back for Clifford to discover himself and his own strength as he struggles against a whole town and a biker gang to discover the truth.
Ken Kuhlken has a distinctive voice in the Hickey family detective mysteries. The books have a hard edge that set the right tone without going over. The Do-Re-Mi is jarring in its tale. It also is seductive, pulling the reader along as s/he tries to keep up. The book has an unexpected twist at the end. That makes me wonder what will happen to Clifford and Alvaro next.
I was disappointed in the resolution of the murder itself. The events and peoples' reactions didn't ring true until the murderer takes off at the end - with Alvaro's help. I was also glad that despite all, Clifford was able to accomplish what he came to Evergreen to do - participate in the folk festival. Circumstances prevented him from doing exactly what he originally wanted. Even so, he plucked at his dream, sustaining him when he needs it later.
The Do-Re-Mi is a true detective style novel. It's nicely done (and was nominated for the Shamus Award when published) and kept me sucked in until the end.
Notice: Somewhat graphic violence
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