J. J. Hensley Down & Out Books (OCTOBER) Softcover $16.95 (260pp), 978-1-948235-35-8
J. J. Hensley’s enthralling detective novel Record Scratch blends music, violence, and mental health. While working as an undercover cop, Trevor Galloway was tortured with heroin; now, he can not only invoke visions of crime scenes, but he has vivid and dynamic hallucinations in which imaginary people become indistinguishable from reality. Galloway parlays his break with reality into a burgeoning PI career.
The murder of rock legend Jimmy Spartan remains unsolved; his sister hires Galloway to dig deeper into it, with special attention on retrieving a unique missing record. After paying him in cash, the sister kills herself in front of Galloway, whose already fragile sense of well-being begins to shatter.
Galloway also stumbles into a Secret Service counterfeiting case when two of his hallucinations turn out to be vicious hitmen. His condition worsens as he fights off ruthless assassins. No longer sure of what’s real and what’s fueled by rage, Galloway works to solve both cases, but at great cost.
The mystery layers suspense and tension to great effect. Galloway is a compelling, if unreliable, narrator. He changes over the course of the novel from a broken but recovering addict into a terrifying and violent man.
With little fluff, even the book’s climax is rapid fire, ruthless, and satisfying. Scenes are compellingly set, and minor plot details connect in surprising ways for a powerful payoff. At the book’s end, Galloway is in a difficult place, but one that sets up strong hook for future books.
Record Scratch is a dark noir thriller staring a fractured but deep and heroic detective.