Big Al’s Books and Pals


The musical backdrop is what initially attracted me to the series and I find the mystery portion of the books always hit the right notes, keeping me guessing, trying to figure out the solution along with Jason.


The Villager


Award winning author and Moscow native RJ McDonnell just released the fifth novel in his “Rock & Roll Mystery Series. “Diamonds, Clubs, and Rock & Roll” is set in an undersea classic rock club that is connected to a millionaire/billionaire resort on the shoreline of La Jolla, CA. In June of this year, the first novel in his series, “Rock & Roll Homicide,” appeared on one of Amazon’s Top 100 lists (Mystery/Crime) and has remained there ever since.


Tami Schnurr – Amazon Reader Review


This book is Amazing! If you enjoy Detective stories, humor and really fleshed out characters, this is a must read. The settings are amazing, and the drama and humor are mixed together beautifully.



The Midwest Book Review


Rock and roll is an allure that can’t be resisted. “The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death” is a page turner for fans of rock and roll and whodunnits.

Eastern Standard Crime – Hardboiled Crime Fiction Reviews


“McDonnell not only spins a decent mystery tale, but the voice he offers Jason Duffy is clever and intelligent without seeming too elitist.”


Kindle Reader Review


My being a Vocal Therapist & Voice Teacher working with many rock and heavy metal singers, this series of books really caught — and KEPT — my attention.
His ability to so easily share real information about the music & promoting business, performing & rehearsing intricacies, counseling, police work, family dynamics, dogs, and alllll kinds of people, while being absolutely entertaining is so satisfying and memorable. What a great pleasure to read and share these books.

S. Rak

 The Midwest Book Review


“The Concert Killer is a fast paced and very fun read, not to be overlooked.”

The GenReview


“Fast paced and full of action, this is a well-told story set in the glamorous world of high-dollar rock and roll.”

reviewed by Marlene Pyle

For the full review click:

Celtic Lady’s Reviews


“A story that will keep you wanting more.  Filled with a diverse group of characters and personal and family issues. I enjoyed it very much.”

For the full review click:

Big Al’s Books and Pals


“I’ve read books that made me laugh out loud before, but never a mystery that did it like this one. Now I’m going to backtrack to the first two books of the series.”

Eileen Granfors (Literary Fiction Author)


“McDonnell uses language full of fast action, smart talk, and condensed description. San Diego is the setting, from the beaches to the hot inland upper desert. The city itself becomes one of the characters, we know it so well from McDonnell’s precision of place.
For fans of mystery and action–especially readers who like Michael Connelly and Nelson Demille–“The Concert Killer” fits right in with these well-known stars.”

John Luczak (Amazon Reviewer)


“I truly enjoy novels that teach me something new without being teachy or preachy. McDonnell obviously has a firm grasp on innovations that will be affecting all of us in the very near future, and worked them seamlessly into the plot. You don’t have to be the least bit tech or business savvy to understand this fascinating aspect of the book.”



April 2011

A great mystery with lots of suspense and action for reluctant readers.  The characters are intriguing and well-developed.  The multiple points of view really add another dimension to the book that is appealing and eye-catching.  The plot is well-done and complex.” – Kira M.

For an author interview and the full review click:

King’s River Life Magazine


“Not only is the reader treated to an inside view of how crimes are solved, but they get to see an insider’s view of the music industry, and the problems bands run into. Full of twists and turns, McDonnell shows what a real murder mystery is.” – Marilyn Meredith

For an author interview and the full review click:

KAZI Radio Book Review


RJ McDonnell combines a well-plotted mystery with a music-industry backdrop to create a book that should appeal to mystery fans and music fans alike. … He also provides laughs along the way, and it is a hard-hearted reader indeed that doesn’t enjoy the final chapter. – reviewed by Tim Chamberlain

For the full review click:

Premier Book Awards – 2010 Mystery/Thriller Novel of the Year 


Congratulations for your novel, Rock & Roll Rip-Off, being selected by the 2010 Premier Book Awards as the Best Book of the Year in the Mystery/Thriller category!

The competition was fierce and it was a difficult decision choosing from so many deserving books entered into this year’s contest. However, the judges were unanimous in their selection of Rock & Roll Rip-Off as the winner.

You should be justifiably proud to have written such a wonderful, award winning novel. We are proud to send you the enclosed certificate in recognition of your achievement.

All of us at Premier Book Awards sincerely hope your commercial success equals your literary achievement.

To Your Future Success,

James R. Olson
Premier Book Awards

Critical Mick


“Critical Mick says: Don’t stop believin’! RJ McDonnell’s Irish-American PI Jason Duffy leads a series that is hard rockin’ good fun. Add Rock & Roll Rip-Off to your stacks! No suitcase full of money is required for this one to become a hit.”

For the full review click:

The Midwest Book Review


“Rock & Roll Rip-Off is a fascinating adventure on the darker side of the music industry and the criminal underworld that lies within it.”

Darcia Helle – Thriller Author


“Nonstop, edge-of-your-seat action! Rock & Roll Rip-Off is the second book in McDonnell’s Rock & Roll Mystery Series. Jason Duffy is a P.I.-ex-musician, with a psyche degree and experience as a mental health counselor. His employees are past patients. His clients are from the world of rock & roll. The characters draw you into their world and the plot keeps you turning pages.

McDonnell’s writing is full of suspense, mystery, and humor. A unique and fun series that had me hooked from the start!”

Mysterious Reviews


The plot is well considered and developed, and Jason Duffy an appealing PI. A musician himself, the author clearly knows the world in which he sets his mysteries, providing an insider look at not only what the public sees on stage, but also what it takes behind-the-scenes to get it there. Finally, the rocky relationship Duffy has with his father, introduced in the first book of the series, takes a step forward here … a nice touch.”

For the full review click:


There is more tragedy here than in the previous book.  McDonnell is growing as an author.  Now his villains are generally ordinary but complex people who have fallen into temptation.  The bad guy in Rock & Roll Homicide was just a bad guy.  Here we can empathize with both the Rock Star and his desperate girl friend.  Their tragedy is not exactly Romeo and Juliet’s but it’s a modern one, believable and possibly ubiquitous.  … Our PI hero Jason Duffy is also more carefully drawn. … Rock & Roll Rip-Off stands alone and is probably the better of the two books. … Can he keep this up for a third volume?  We’ll see.  For now, savor the first two.”  

reviewed by Steve Moore

For the full review click:–Reviewed-By-Steve-Moore-of-Bookpleasurescom/Page1.html



Night Owl Reviews

AC Associated Content – Arts & Entertainment9/7/09“Most enjoyable for readers are the characters author RJ McDonnell brings to the story. They grow and develop over the course of the story, and readers get drawn into their worlds.”For the full review click:
BookPleasures.com9/2/09“RJ McDonnell’s enjoyable style is somewhere between Carl Hiaasen’s in Basket Case and Michael Connelly’s inChasing the Dime … Rock & Roll Homicide is both interesting and entertaining.” … reviewed by Steve MooreFor the full review click:




“I’m not too old to enjoy a good rocker story and McDonnell delivers it … It’s a great murder mystery.” … reviewed by
Marlene Pyle

For the full review click:


Stubble Music Magazine


“This is the best rock & roll murder mystery I’ve read in years – and believe me I seek them out.” … reviewed by Kitty Harte

For the full review click:


Apex Reviews


“Rock & Roll Homicide is a fast-paced, deeply twisted, and hilarious story that will have readers salivating for more as they dive further into the plot. McDonnell has a great knowledge of the music industry, and his characters are dysfunctional, yet well-crafted. Rock & Roll Homicide is a well thought out mystery that leaves you on the edge of your seat. This cast of characters is perfect for a series, and hopefully we’ll see just that in the future.” … reviewed by Brooke Carleton

For the full review click:

Critical Mick (Ireland)


“The novel’s romantic subplot was both refreshing and authentic … It’s a fun read … Rock & Roll Homicide is at its best when RJ McDonnell is pushing the PI formula into places it has not traditionally been pushed. I look forward to see where he and Jason Duffy go next.” reviewed by Mick Halpin

For the full review click:

Reading and Reviewing


Title: “Great Characters Make for Great Music Mystery” … “McDonnell never forgets that in every situation, there are real motivations, and he is able to bring out the best in his characters and story.” reviewed by Christine Zibas

For the full review click:

The Midwest Book Review


“A brilliantly written tale of sex, drugs, rock & roll, and the Mob. “Rock & Roll Homicide” is highly recommended for community library mystery collections.”

For the full review click:

Armchair Interviews Book Review


“Armchair Interviews says: Wonderful character development.”

For the full review click:

Mysterious Reviews / Hidden Staircase Mystery Books


“Filled with insider details of the entertainment industry, music and mystery fans alike will be thrilled with Rock & Roll Homicide. But even those readers simply looking for a fast-paced story with likeable characters will appreciate the book.”

For the full review click:

Books n Bytes


“When I first picked up this book, I thought the entire idea was funny but was in no way going to hold my interest. WRONG! McDonnell has written the first in what I hope to be a series that quite cleverly ties three different strands together into a workable whole and provides an entertaining twist on PI work. Watch for more – this should be a series!” reviewed by Webspinner 

For the full review click:

Gumshoe Review

“Jason has not yet become hardened to the very real dangers of his new profession. We experience his inner conflict as his girlfriend, staff, and family are drawn into the danger zone.”

For the full review click:

Rock & Roll Homicide is an engaging mystery that takes the reader through a very detailed investigation.”

Reviewed by Connie Harris. For the full review click:


Amazon Customer Reviews

 Exceptional Rock Novel, January 6, 2009

Let me start by saying that NEVER do I read fictional stories – this is just not where my interest lies. As a rule, I find myself picking up a book on WW I I , or a Religious commentary ( having a background in Rel. Studies ) , or most likely of all, a book on rock and roll . You see, I still manage to be a full – time guitarist after several decades of doing just that and the fever continues to be just as strong as ever. Hence , I love to read about the musicians who “sting my soul “. So, while a book on Hendrix would always catch my eye, a fictional account of a fictional group would not typically do the same. Come to think of it, I do not believe that I have come upon too great a number of books in said category. But I did read Rock and Roll Homicide , a book by R. J. McDonnell , upon recommendation from a friend, and I am eager to tell any and all fans of music literature that reading it was a shear delight for me . Now, I am by no means a literary critic, but I just loved this book.The plot sounded interesting enough for me to desire a look ( a musician – turned – detective by the name of Jason Duffy was hired to find the murderer of the lead singer in a top group by the singers’ widow ) and within the first dozen pages or so, I was committed to the read and in no time , I was in Duffys’ world as the plot thickened…….and a believable story it is – I could see it happening from a musician’s perspective. I have played in local cover bands, toured with Chubby Checker, and played guitar in the Noel Redding Band and I must say that the author kept my interest every inch of the way. And I did not know where it was going to lead until we ended up where it ended . Nicely developed characters , who to me had faces I could eventually see , and a beautifully fascinating flow of action .R. J. McDonnell seems to know too much about the world of music to not be somehow attached to it in his life ….. musician – turned – writer ? Perhaps, but all I know is that if you are keen on music, you very well may like this as much as I have. And may our man Duffy be back again ? I suppose that time will tell…..Every good wish to you all ! Robbie Walsh


 Humorous and Intriguing, May 16, 2008
By  John J. Luczak (Scranton, PA)

I never thought anyone would combine an intriguing detective story with humor, the way Nelson DeMille does in his John Corey series – until now. Rock & Roll Homicide leads the reader through a diverse maze of suspects, ranging from a drugged-out drummer to the Russian Mafia. But, for me, the centerpiece to this intriguing whodunit is the laugh-out-loud humor that happens in between the action scenes and serious sleuthing.

The detective, Jason Duffy, who is young and working his first murder case, was a counselor at a mental health center prior to becoming a detective.
His two employees are both former patients, and he hires a third, as a temp, later in the book. While the two regular employees are both very good at their jobs, the way they relate to the world is frequently hilarious. The temp, a security guard with Delusions of Grandeur, is completely over the top.
The case involves an ambitious rock star who was killed in an explosion while recording a CD. The widow, who is the chief suspect, hires Jason to help prove her innocence.
The other aspect of this book that I really enjoyed was the relationship between Jason and his ex-police detective father. It’s not unusual for teenage boys to run into problems with their fathers while establishing their own identities. Jason’s dilemma was magnified by the fact that he played in a rock band from high school until he became a private investigator. As a cop, his father knew all too well the downside to a rock & roll musician’s lifestyle.
Throughout the book we watch them take tentative steps toward reestablishing their relationship.
Finally, as a rock fan since the `60s, I enjoyed the information about the impact of how file sharing on the Internet, download sales, and demographic profiling affected the victim’s record company contract negotiations. In fact, there was quite a bit of backstage information that I found fascinating. My only criticism is that I wish the author would have developed this area in greater depth.
You don’t have to be a rock fan to enjoy this book. The well-crafted plot and humor alone make it an excellent read.

 A “must read” for all murder and music fans, June 11, 2008
By  Ford (Boston)

(Reviewer Beverly Ford is a 20 year veteran of the Boston Herald)
Murder, music and the mob make a marvelous mix in RJ McDonnell’s first novel “Rock and Roll Homicide,” a delightfully witty and superbly crafted tale of novice detective Jason Duffy’s investigation into the murder of a rising rock star.

The story revolves around the death of Terry Tucker, the hard-driving head of San Diego-based rock band Doberman’s Stub, who was killed when his earphones exploded just as he was wrapping up work on the band’s third CD – a promising release that was to shoot the group to superstardom.

The list of suspects in Tucker’s death is enough to make even the most hard-nosed detective cringe. There’s the rocker’s wife, who stands to inherit a $5 million insurance payoff, record label executives with sinister ties to the Russian Mafia and his beleaguered band mates, including a hard-partying drummer and a singer/songwriter living well-beyond his means.

Toss in a cast of dysfunctional characters like Duffy’s obsessive compulsive assistant, his retired police detective father and a photographer afflicted with Tourrette’s Syndrome and you have all the makings for a fast-paced and funny look at life in the music business.

McDonnell takes the reader on a wild ride through the murder investigation, which has enough twists and turns to keep even the most hardened mystery lover intrigued. It’s his insider’s knowledge of the music industry, strong attention to detail and witty insights into the characters, however, that really makes this novel stand out.

Fast moving and at times laugh-out-loud hilarious, “Rock and Roll Homicide” has all the makings of a sure-fire winner. Anyone who loves murder, mysteries or music should pick it up.
As an avid reader, I’ve found McDonnell to be one of the most engaging, enjoyable, and funniest writers I’ve come across in a long, long time. With his smart style and well-crafted characters, “Rock and Roll Homicide” can easily break out to make McDonnell one of the most sought after new writers of his generation.

I, for one, am hoping McDonnell revives Duffy and his dysfunctional cast of characters in a second novel – or perhaps an entire series. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some astute movie executive signs up for the film rights to the Duffy franchise.

Here’s hoping we see more of this novice detective – and more of McDonnell’s sharp wit and clever writing in the future.

One thought on “Reviews

  1. Just finished reading the Concert Killer, which is the best so far of his three Rock & Roll mystery thrillers. A lot of wit, humor and suspenseful reading. Kept me guessing… Just when you think you know whom the killer is R.J. changes your mind. If anyone knows of other music mystery thrillers can you please post?