Review by Ian Keogh
After collaborating with Jackie Ball in Volume Three, series creator Hope Larson steps back to just co-plotting leaving Ball to write the rest of a story that begins with a massive power outage in Florida, and a number of bands missing from St Pascal Beach Music Festival. That’s being organised by Chris Villain, a renowned music mover and shaker who’s discovered several bands, and is impressed with both Goldie’s friend Diane’s musical knowledge and her friends’ band, promoting them to the line-up. Goldie, however, can’t help feeling something’s wrong, and this series being what it is, she’s right.
Goldie Vance promotes such a cheery mood, and Goldie herself is such a likeable and irrepressible personality that it’s a surprise to see her upset, as she is near the start of this outing. It’s one of those situations where she can’t tell Diane what she thinks as Diane will misinterpret it as jealousy, yet Goldie still has to help her friend out. Unfortunately for Goldie, the path isn’t a smooth one.
The series has another new artist, and Elle Power’s cartooning tones down the exaggerations that distracted so much last time round. People’s eyes are a little bigger than before, but beyond that stylistic quirk everything is well drawn and Power obviously enjoys dressing up people in the early 1960s style.
It’s noticeable that more than any previous volume, this story ups the drama between friends in a soap opera way, and for what’s aimed at a younger audience, there are a hell of a lot of technical period references. Kids are going to have to take it as given that Russians and the KGB are bad, and will be on their phones checking out just what “records” are. Ball goes too far into technical detail when investigating how vinyl is created, and this might have been better saved for a mystery aimed at an older audience. Also, once the plot is revealed, too many questions are raised. Why are the Soviets doing this? Wouldn’t there have been easier ways to test the technology? And if Goldie told the truth about the new hotel manager wouldn’t that have saved a lot of time? These questions are likely to fly over the heads of the youngsters Goldie Vance is aimed at, but the previous plots couldn’t be picked at in this way.
What’s good about Volume Four still outweighs what isn’t, and the series continues with In La La Land. The first four books in the series are also available as a shrinkwrapped set.