For The Love Of Jazz
by Shiloh Walker, contemporary (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-675-2

This particular edition of For The Love Of Jazz, I believe, is revised and expanded from a previous version published by Wings ePress back in 2004.

"Jazz" refers to our hero, Jasper Wayne McNeil Jr. Despite his grand-sounding name, our poor dear had an unhappy childhood that culminated with the shooting of his abusive stepfather by his mother who subsequently shot herself. Jazz made a note in the mental scorecard he keeps in his head, blaming himself for not being the one to shoot his stepfather so that his mother would still be free and alive.

Throughout it all, he was close to Alex Kincade, his best friend. Then came that day in 1991 when Jazz and Alex had a very long day that culminated in a car accident that killed Alex and left Jazz taking the blame for the accident. Jazz added another point in his "Why I Am So Important That I Deserve To Be Blamed For Everything In This World" score card, donned his hair suit, and left town.

Cut to today, when Jazz returns to town of Briarwood after the death of his wife. That's another point in his score sheet - he believes that he somehow tainted his wife with his... I don't know, the Amazing Osmotic Crap from the World's Most Important Martyr or something. At least, he thinks he's cursed because everything he "touches" gets "destroyed" or dies. I'm surprised he doesn't send off his five-year old daughter Mariah to someplace safer since he's so convinced that he's the new walking Tutankhamun's tomb.

Our heroine Anne-Marie Kincade is the sister of dear departed Alex. She loves kiddies so she's now a pediatrician. She's also a sweet and inoffensive bag of sunshine who has a tendency to stand by and support the people she cares for. With Jazz coming back to town, I'm sure you can see where the story is going.

Anne-Marie from the start doesn't harbor any ill-will towards Jazz. In fact, she's pretty much the therapy couch, mother, wife, and housekeeper that he can only dream of. Therefore, the story instead focuses on Jazz's attempts to start a new life with his daughter as well as find some answers to the events of That Day.

When Anne-Marie's father Douglas starts making some long overdue inquiries into the events leading up to Alex's death, someone tries to inflict harm on that old coot. When the dead bodies start to show up, things get even more messy. We have Guilt in the story, and now, we have Tragedy. Oh, I can't wait for the inevitable moment when the cartoon villain gets the blame for everything and Jazz is absolved of every crime he has dutifully shoulder the blame for in the last three thousand years so that he can finally shag Anne-Marie without fearing that she will die from a Hallmark disease of the week a few months down the road.

As if this story wasn't predictable enough, Ms Walker makes a mistake, I believe, by revealing the events that took place the night Alex died in the prologue and then having the characters wonder about those events for the rest of the story. At least if the reader is taken along for the ride as he or she attempts to piece together the various clues Anne-Marie and Jazz obtain as the story progresses, there will be a measure of suspense and anticipation in the story. It's like being told in the prologue of a murder mystery story that the butler murdered the housekeeper. What's the point?

While the story and the villain are predictable, I find For The Love Of Jazz a pleasant read nonetheless. Jazz is a typical angst-ridden hero who isn't too memorable in my opinion, but I like how Anne-Marie gets really driven and proactive when it comes to doing what she believes is right. Her personality on the whole is a rather dull Miss Sunshine and Love type, but she is pretty smart and she takes the initiative to do things rather than sitting back and waiting for things to happen to her before she reacts. I like that in her.

Still, there isn't anything here that stands out as particularly memorable in any way. For what it is worth, For The Love Of Jazz is a well-written and easy-to-read comfort story that is perhaps just as easy to forget once I'm done with it.

Rating: 78

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