The Family Dynamics of a Unique Mystery Series
by RJ McDonnell
Action mysteries are usually plot driven stories with strong male protagonists overcoming numerous obstacles to uncover murderers and save attractive females in the process. The protagonists are typically police detectives or private investigators who are either single or divorced, creating the opportunity for sexual tension with the damsels in distress.
I freely admit to reading and enjoying novels with this dynamic for many years. But after two years of writing for television, where winning formulas get done to death, I longed for something fresh. So I created Jason Duffy, a young private investigator in a serious relationship, who is slowly mending fences with his retired police detective father through a mother who quietly serves as the catalyst for healing.
Jason’s relationship with his father changed dramatically at the age of 12 when he told his parents he’d saved up enough money to buy an electric guitar. His father had seen too many rockers get involved with drugs to go along with his son’s request. But his mother felt he had the benefit of good parenting, knew the difference between right and wrong, and should be allowed to pursue his dream. The bottom line was that Jason got the guitar and, from that point forward, his dad spent a great deal of time at the local
Irish cop bar. Jason resented how his father’s frequent absences adversely affected the family.
A grudge formed between the two of them that went well beyond the discord affiliated with the leaving the nest syndrome. Those of you who are familiar with Irish Americans (like myself) know that grudges can qualify for Lifetime Achievement Awards in some families.
Jason worked his way through college as a club musician in a rock band. He continued playing with his band for two years after graduation while he held a day job as an outpatient mental health counselor. But counseling wasn’t in his blood. During the Cold War years, while Jason was still living at home, the only thing he and his father had in common was their mutual interest in watching crime dramas on television. Jason also closely followed his father’s cases, and never missed a backyard barbecue with his dad’s Irish cop buddies. When Jason decided that counseling wasn’t right for him, he started a PI internship and left the band.
The first novel in my series, Rock & Roll Homicide, opens with Jason very much over his head after accepting his first murder case. Mom recognized the fence mending opportunity and engineered a truce. Since that fateful day, Jason’s relationship with his father has consisted of a number of two steps forward, and one step back maneuvers; like a dance routine where both partners insist on leading.
A major step backwards involved Jason’s girlfriend, Kelly, in the second novel of the series, Rock & Roll Rip-Off (winner of an indie 2010 Mystery/Thriller of the Year Award). For the first time ever, Jason is dating a woman of Irish descent, and Dad is thrilled. In his exuberance, Dad made the mistake of asking, “When are you two getting married?”
Kelly is a second grade teacher who is passionate about her job and very supportive of Jason. Dad’s awkward question enabled me to flesh her out in a much more three dimensional supporting role. In this novel, the reader discovers more about Jason and Kelly as individuals and as a couple. Of course, there is a compelling criminal case going on at the same time that places huge demands on Jason’s attention. Once
again, he relies on his father’s assistance after Mom steps in to avert a return to the Cold War years.
Most people don’t think of family when they hear that I write the Rock & Roll Mystery Series. Yet it plays a major role in all of my novels. Every book in this series relates to some aspect of the music business. But if you’re looking for a key theme that ties them all together, pay attention to the family dynamics and you’ll see Jason and the main subplot characters grow and mature from one book to the next.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that I use a bit of humor in between action scenes. If you enjoy a good whodunit with a few smiles and a musical twist, I’d love to introduce you to my fictional family. They may be a bit dysfunctional at times, but they never let a grudge completely block their deep seeded love for one another.
***My review of The Concert Killer will be coming later today so stay tuned***