Johnny America


Book Re­view: The Miss­ing Rock Star Ca­per by R. Park­er McVey


The Miss­ing Rock Star Ca­per is a Solve-it-Your­self/The-Choice-is-Yours mys­tery book. In it, the read­er is cast in­to a world of in­trigue and shady deal­ings not faced by your av­er­age high-school-aged su­per­sleuth. It all starts with an ear­ly morn­ing call from your in­cred­i­bly hot cheerleader/candy striper friend, Deb­bi Lamb­swood. She claims that Bjorn Storm, a rock-and-roll star, has gone miss­ing from the hos­pi­tal. He’d been ad­mit­ted the night be­fore for in­juries sus­tained dur­ing a con­cert. So you de­cide to go investigate.


“you” — am­a­teur detective

Deb­bi Lamb­swood — your friend, who is blonde and ex­treme­ly hot.

Lt. Trapp — hard-bit­ten vet­er­an de­tec­tive from the lo­cal po­lice force who does­n’t take kind­ly to nosy kids snoop­ing around his crime investigations.

Dr. Vin­cent Cary — in­no­cent staff mem­ber who is some­times false­ly im­pli­cat­ed in Bjorn Stor­m’s disappearance.

Bjorn Storm — the dash­ing rock star who wears his blond hair with a blue streak. Re­bel­lion. In the line draw­ing at the front of the book, he al­so wears his col­lar up. Awesome.

Bill Ben­twick — the x‑ray tech­ni­cian who is de­scribed by co-work­ers as “act­ing strange­ly.” He’s the one they would vote most like­ly to shoot up the place.

Sis­sy White — the sexy young nurse who, in one of the end­ings, is ro­man­ti­cal­ly linked with Bjorn Storm. As you’d ex­pect, this lit­tle lassie is just a pawn in a big­ger game.

Dr. Ray­mond Desmond — Chief of Staff at the hos­pi­tal. A shady char­ac­ter who won’t hes­i­tate to pump you full of sedatives.

Boston Bor­zoi — the bizarrely-named un­der­ground crime boss. He is re­spon­si­ble for most of your less-for­tu­nate ends in the book.

Pap­py — the on­ly char­ac­ter not to get a last name, Pap­py is the kind of good-na­tured old jan­i­tor that would end up be­ing called Pap­py. He would­n’t hurt a fly, un­less the fly were dirty­ing up his hos­pi­tal — he can­not con­done that. He’s a ver­i­ta­ble gold-mine of clues, just wait­ing to be explored.

As a good friend, though, I should warn you about a few of the things that could hap­pen to you, should you em­bark on this ad­ven­ture: se­dat­ed via hy­po­der­mic nee­dle, se­dat­ed via “mick­eyed” so­da, walled up in a se­cret room, locked in a stor­age clos­et bound and gagged, trapped in a full-body cast in the hos­pi­tal, dri­ven in a limo to the edge of town and dropped off, or kicked out of the hos­pi­tal by se­cu­ri­ty. And, one pos­si­bly dire end­ing: “Bor­zoi clos­es the door be­hind him, and takes a gun out of his pock­et. For you, this may be.… THE END”

I must say, I am in fa­vor books for young peo­ple where­in the threat of death to the read­er is im­plied. But, in gen­er­al, there are some prob­lems with the book. In fact, some of the prob­lems may be in­her­ent to the choose-your-own-ad­ven­ture genre. The first is: how does one read a book like this? My first ad­ven­ture was just over two min­utes. Ob­vi­ous­ly I made a poor choice when I hid be­hind the box­es rather than fol­low Bill Ben­twick down the hall. Is that it, then? 117 pages con­densed in­to two min­utes? I re­mem­bered, the next time through, that the best way to read these books is to cheat. Read, make a choice, and then check it — while still keep­ing your fin­ger on the op­tions page. If the choice seems to con­tin­ue, with fur­ther choic­es to move on in the sto­ry, then take it. If you see that big THE END, you know to sim­ply flip back and take the oth­er op­tion. Sim­ple. Cheat­ing, maybe, but do read­ers have the time to com­plete the same ad­ven­ture over and over again? I don’t. There are twen­ty-sev­en pos­si­ble con­clu­sions, but many of them are sim­i­lar. Of­ten two di­ver­gent paths lead to the same end page.

With this book, though, the ma­jor prob­lem is that it’s un­sat­is­fy­ing to read. There’s the fact that you don’t know when you’re fin­ished. Then there’s the way that many of the end­ings leave too many loose ends. Some­times, you’ll find your friend Deb­bi Lamb­swood (al­ways walled up in a se­cret base­ment room un­der the hos­pi­tal), and that’s the end of the sto­ry. You might find her by chance, or by be­ing tossed in be­side her, but ei­ther way the ad­ven­ture ends here: but what kind of am­a­teur de­tec­tive are you? Is­n’t this The Miss­ing Rock Star Ca­per? Don’t you think you should be find­ing that rock star? Is a lit­tle Cask of Amon­til­la­do ac­tion go­ing to get in your way? Oth­er times, your sto­ry will end with Bjorn Storm lo­cat­ed, but Deb­bi still miss­ing. There’s very sel­dom any mo­tive giv­en for the crimes, which any de­tec­tive knows is es­sen­tial to get a conviction.

While the text of the book left some­thing to be de­sired, the draw­ings were more than I ex­pect­ed. Il­lus­tra­tor Jack­ie Roberts took black line on white back­ground and man­aged to con­vey the whole range of hu­man emo­tions that take place dur­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of a rock star’s dis­ap­pear­ance at a hos­pi­tal. One com­plaint, though: I would’ve pre­ferred that the “you” char­ac­ter nev­er be shown. As writ­ten, “you” are gen­der neu­tral. In the draw­ings, a tow-head­ed young man with a side part and no bot­tom lip.

Over­all, I’d say my ex­pec­ta­tions were high based on the word “ca­per” in the ti­tle, and those ex­pec­ta­tions weren’t met. Nonethe­less, Jack­ie Roberts’ fine il­lus­tra­tions and threats of bod­i­ly harm to the read­er take this book one notch above bad. C+.

Filed under Books on November 21st, 2004

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