Book review - Dead Rock Stars by Guy Mankowski


Review: Dead Rock Stars by Guy Mankowski, published by Darkstroke Books

It’s a couple of days since I finished reading Dead Rock Stars and I’ve waited a while before writing my review to reflect on the story and let it settle with me.

I’ve seen this book described variously as a study of grief, a coming of age story and a thriller. Whatever the genre, I found it an evocative and emotional read. It tells the story of Emma Imrie, a talented rock musician, and her brief flicker in the spotlight before the darker side of the rock ‘n roll life style, and betrayal by a callous, shallow boyfriend, powerful only because he’s perched one rung higher on the ladder of success, bring her down.

… the shot blinked shut, Emma sashaying into the distance. She’d gone and she’d barely announced her arrival.

It’s not a spoiler to reveal that Emma dies tragically, with so much unfulfilled potential, because this outcome is clear from the blurb and even the title. Her death leaves her younger brother, Jeff, reeling from grief. His parents, locked in their own anguish, abandon him, and ship him off to stay with friends on the Isle of Wight, where he grew up. Baffled and mourning, Jeff becomes embroiled in a quest to understand events leading to his sister’s death and, in this, he is helped by the diary she left behind. I wondered at this point if it would turn into a detective story but Jeff’s investigation focuses on the emotional turmoil and insecurity that plagued Emma’s outwardly confident, inwardly brittle, psyche.

As Jeff grapples to come to terms with what’s happened, he’s pushed to the very margins of his own life. The house where he’s staying offers shelter and emotional support from his friend’s older sister, Ruth, but Jeff can’t accept comfort. He’s driven to take himself off and sleep on the beach for weeks, where he puts himself in all kinds of physical discomfort and danger.

The late 1990s music scene in Camden is sketched expertly and the opening scenes set there draw the reader in, with their foreshadowing of inevitable tragedy. There’s a clever juxtapositioning of the raw vibrancy of London’s popular but seedy clubs, floors sticky with spilt beer, against the beauty of the Isle of Wight where:

The morning ocean was transparent and lapped the sand

Mankowski’s writing has a lyrical quality and he portrays raw emotion without descending into cliché. From the outset, I knew I was in safe hands. Highly recommended and a five ***** read.

View my book on Amazon

Latest Blog Posts


Reflections from my Writing Room February 2024


Reflections from my Writing Room August 2023


Reflections from my Writing Room July 2023