Inspector Lewis Series III: Counter Culture Blues

In the sixties, Midnight Addiction was the number three British rock band in the world. But that was before lead singer Esmé Ford drowned herself. Or so everyone thought. Thirty-five years later, she turns up alive to reassemble her stunned band mates for one last, lucrative tour.

Inspector Lewis, who was once a Midnight Addiction fan himself, lucks into the reunion when he and Sergeant Hathaway are sent to talk to the band's drummer, Richie Maguire, about his habit of illegal hunting near a church. But soon they are investigating the mysterious murder of Lucas, a teenage orphan who was run down after trying to scale the fence at Richie's farm.

As the age-worn rockers start rehearsals, Lewis and Hathaway try to establish Lucas's connection to the band. Along with Esmé and Richie, the personnel include Franco on lead guitar; Richie's junkie brother, Mack, on bass; longtime sound man, Bone and the urbane manager, Vernon Oxe.

Rounding out the Midnight Addiction entourage are Richie's daughter, Kitten, a music student at Oxford; her professor, Samantha Wheeler and Richie's estranged wife, Caroline. Curiously, Kitten appears to be being blackmailed by Peter, a fellow student; and Felipe, Richie's chauffeur, has a penchant for suspicious lurking.

When two of these turn up dead, Lewis and Hathaway are hard pressed to come up with a suspect who has a motive to kill all three victims — someone who may be tied to Lucas's search for his real relatives, Richie's lost tribute recordings for Kitten, Mack's mysterious grudge against Richie, Esmé's affairs with practically everyone, and the box office riches awaiting the final mind-blowing tour of the Midnight Addiction.

Read full synopsis
Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers

Hide full synopsis
Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers

Richie Maguire, former drummer and vocalist for the defunct band Midnight Addiction, a sensationally popular rock group in the 1960s, likes to hunt pigeons illegally on Sunday, inciting a local minister to complain to police. When Inspector Lewis and Sergeant Hathaway arrive at Richie's farm, Lewis is stunned to see Esme Ford, the band's superstar female vocalist, who supposedly drowned herself 35 years earlier. A passionate Midnight Addiction fan as a youth, Lewis takes much greater interest in this astonishing development than in the firearms violation.

Just as shocked by Esme's resurrection are Richie and fellow band members Franco (lead guitar) and Bone (sound engineer). Richie's little brother, Mack (bass), has a more measured reaction due to memory loss from LSD abuse. Their manager, Vernon Oxe, seems unusually well-prepared for the surprise and later admits to Lewis and Hathaway that he stage-managed Esme's disappearance and now her return so he can mount a blockbuster revival tour.

Meanwhile, there is a murder to investigate. The mangled body of a teenage orphan named Lucas has been discovered in the woods. Forensic evidence shows he was repeatedly run over just outside the gate of Richie's farm. At first, all that Lewis and Hathaway can establish is that Lucas had obtained access to his adoption records and was trying to track down his grandmother.

Two more deaths soon follow. Bone is found overdosed in a pub; and Samantha Wheeler, an Oxford musicologist and Midnight Addiction expert, has been strangled while sitting at her computer.

One of Samantha's students is Kitten, Richie's daughter, who is being blackmailed by a classmate for having accidentally erased an unreleased album of songs that Richie was recording for her, although this is unrelated to the murders. Also unconnected is the suspicious activity of Richie's chauffeur, Felipe, who tips off the press about Esme.

In fact, Kitten turns out to be Mack's daughter by Richie's wife, Caroline — which explains Mack's habitual concern for Kitten, even in his perpetual acid-trip haze. It also accounts for bad feelings between Mack and Richie, who adopted Kitten because of Mack's drug problem. Another source of animosity is the hit song "Counter Culture Blues," which Mack wrote and Richie stole, again because his little brother was too stoned to notice. But for Mack, the song pales beside the loss of Kitten.

However, none of this family dysfunction explains the murders, which Lewis finally pieces together as follows: The returned Esme is, in fact, Maureen Little, Esme's younger sister, who is almost a twin. The real Esme died by drowning, as reported at the time. Recently, Vernon recruited Maureen and groomed her to be like her sister. Bone guessed the truth and was murdered by Vernon. So did Samantha, after analyzing a sound spectrum of Maureen's voice — another revelation silenced by Vernon. Although Maureen didn't know it, Lucas was her grandson by her deceased junkie daughter, trying to get in touch after following her. He, too, was killed by Vernon as a potential distraction from the lucrative concert tour.

Vernon is even ready to do in Franco, who gets wise to Maureen after she tries to seduce him, not realizing that he is gay, as the real Esme well knew. Vernon drugs Franco and pushes him into the deadly macerator pool on Richie's farm. Lewis and Hathaway arrive just in time. But before they can get Vernon to the police station, Richie blows him away with his shotgun — a somewhat more serious infraction of the firearms regulations.

Support Provided By: