Clea Simon knows how to capture the texture of the rock club — its heat, sex, power, energy, and danger, too. [A] propulsive new thriller ... In electric prose, Simon conjures the rock-and-roll world, its drink, drugs, and band-dynamics, and the twin seductresses of excess and success, as she makes a penetrating portrait of friendship. She writes of what it is to look back on the past, with nostalgia, grief, longing, regret, and the ongoing process of losing control, and getting it back.
Simon draws on her career as a journalist, in particular her reporting on Boston’s music scene in the 1990s, for the setting, concert scenes, and flashbacks, bringing a gritty reality to this dark suspense tale.
Solid ... Simon, a former rock critic and the author of more than two dozen mysteries, perceptively illustrates the sacrifices one makes for art. Gal’s memories are tinged with the pain of lost relationships, betrayals by promoters and managers, but also the joy of performing.
Among the subgenres of popular fiction, the most difficult to write may well be the rock and roll novel. It offers a unique challenge: how to translate the anarchic burn-down-the-mission energy of the genre to the slower, linear, more cerebral medium of prose ... Their story arcs race along toward a solution, with plot and characterization embracing the anarchistic particulars of the music. Clea Simon’s gritty Hold Me Down stays true to this pattern ... Gal is an appealing protagonist. She has toughness and attitude in spades, yet she is vulnerable too, in ways that we learn via the story’s limited-third-person-POV construction ... Simon knows the punk music milieu well, rendering it with convincing realism no doubt gleaned from her own days as a rock critic. She adds an insightful female context to what is still a male-dominant world ... The book reads fast. Her scenester’s savvy keeps it moving along with short chapters and a knack for supplying crisp details. Character development is a particular strength ... Hold Me Down is not without flaws. In its purest heart, rock and roll is subversive, unruly, and the novel’s limited POV puts restraints on the drama by having much of the action (including the crime and its investigation) occur offstage. Accordingly, much of Gal’s activity in the present — sitting in coffee shops, thinking, making oblique conversation — begins to feel like mental hand-wringing ... On many levels, Hold Me Down is terrific. Its power lies in the vitality of Clea Simon’s prose and her insider savvy.