Where's Karen?

Fiction - Suspense
180 Pages
Reviewed on 04/24/2017
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

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.

Neil A White

Where’s Karen is the latest novel by Greg Jolley in the Danser series. And although part of a series featuring the Danser family, it does read very well as a standalone novel. Karen Danser is the enigmatic muse of the country-jazz band, Wyde. Her ethereal presence and playing at performances across the country bring an almost magical sense to the fans' concert experience. And much as Karen and her band experiment with this freeform - Grateful Dead-esque meets performance art - genre, Mr. Jolley’s telling of his tale exhibits many of the same characteristics. The storyline is a loosely woven, whimsical, concert tour monologue with an underlying hint of darkness. That darkness being Leonardo, a stalker who is kidnapping concertgoers and creating a catalogue of video and sketches from his victim’s bodies which are loosely based on the object of his desires, Karen.

I would have liked to have seen the suspense-filled sections of the novel more deeply explored, thereby leading to a more climactic conclusion; however, that shouldn’t dissuade the reader from enjoying a beautiful novel. Mr. Jolley’s characters themselves are a mysterious collection of personalities with idiosyncrasies that would keep a team of psychologists busy for the foreseeable future. Karen, a musical savant that rarely utters one single word, and a child trapped in an adult’s body. Her adoptive father, Uncle Tim, who has never recovered from losing the love of his life; Tim’s nephew, Brian, who carries his broken life around in Ziploc bags and has a rather strange sleeping habit. And that’s just the family! Mr. Jolley has woven together a wonderful novel with some truly imaginative writing, one which will have many readers searching for the other books in the Danser series.

Jack Magnus

Where's Karen? is a contemporary novel of suspense written by Greg Jolley. Karen Danser was an iconic performer, one who seemed to live and breathe the music of which she was so intimately a part. She would often be found jamming with other groups as they performed, mostly in the darkened areas of the stage where no one saw her, and those groups were, for the most part, thrilled to have her become part of their performances. Uncle Tim, her father and unofficial tour manager, wondered how Karen’s own group, Wyde, would survive, as Israel, her official manager, was wont to discuss with him. Karen was, however, a force of nature, and her skills with violin, dobro and guitar were fast becoming legendary. When she was not performing, she would be found out on the waves with her cousin, Brian. Her unnaturally pale complexion, long slender limbs and white one-piece suit standing out starkly as she elegantly surfed the waves with an equal precision to her playing. Brian, who lived and breathed water, was in the pool design and maintenance business with his Uncle Tim, when they were not on the road, and these morning surfing sessions were a joy for him. Amidst all the publicity, the clamor of crowds and interviews with journalists, a troubling issue remained prominently in everyone’s mind. Someone was abducting young women from the audience during Karen’s performances. They would be found a day or two later, disoriented and recovering from having been drugged. And there was a handsome photographer with a surfer’s good looks, flowing long hair and fraudulent press credentials who kept trying to get close to Karen.

Greg Jolley’s contemporary novel of suspense, Where's Karen?, moves and flows to the sounds of the music being created each day by Karen, her group and the other bands she jams with as she and her tour travel the roads from concert to concert. I loved the way Jolley makes the music come alive through his use of words and moods; you can sense the rhythms mounting and combining, and it’s a marvel and a delight. Then there’s those surf sessions and the incredible descriptions of the pools Uncle Tim designs -- pools that would make any swimmer go blue with envy over. I know I did. Jolley’s Leonardo is the perfect ominous stranger, the lovely man who, in a strange parallel to Karen’s musical genius and Uncle Tim’s design magic, creates his own masterpieces out of drugged young women. I loved falling into the world created in Where’s Karen? and regretted when the book ended, leaving the haunting memory of that music and those pools. Where’s Karen? is most highly recommended.