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Review: HOLD ME DOWN by Clea Simon
Prolific author Clea Simon (A Spell of Murder) delivers an enchanting, guitar-shredding crescendo of a novel in Hold Me Down, a novel that can just as easily draw comparisons to Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams as Megan Abbott’s The End of Everything. Simon writes about former rock star Gal, who becomes invested in the mysterious death of a former roadie after a reunion show to benefit a former bandmate who has recently died of cancer, the illness having left her husband and daughter in debt. The novel delves deep into issues of rape, sobriety, fame, and the various ways we cope with the past and remember events and life so differently, while never letting go of a profoundly lyrical and gripping writing style that so permeates Simon’s writing as a whole. Simon clearly has a vast knowledge of music and understands all the behind-the-scenes components well, using crime fiction to investigate the horrors of trauma and the various ways we all cope, some more successful than others, leaving the reader with the question: is this a murder mystery, or something more? I’d argue the latter, with Simon pointing to the complexities of human nature, emotion, and our ability to stomach the truth and the different ways and various extremities we use when protecting those we love. As a new uncle myself, I can say that Hold Me Down hits hard and wonderfully, with the perfect balance of emotional complexity and mystery and complex character study. I was engrossed in Hold Me Down, a wonder which works on many levels, just as much as an electric rock-n-roll novel as it is a gristly murder mystery. Simon excels at delving deep into human emotions and what makes each of us tick, revealing a gift for a tremendous amount of empathy that works for both her protagonist and also some of the characters guilty of even the most heinous crimes—Simon isn’t necessarily interested in redemption as in understanding that we are not all simply black or white, good or bad. She has so much love for the people of her novels, but never sacrifices the pure noir bent of the story, always finding the edge to her multilayered characters. Simon’s latest is an absolutely not-to-miss book, a beautiful and contemplative rush of a novel you’ll want to read over again, just in case you missed anything the first time around—or just because, like the urge to listen to any favorite rock song. Simon’s prose and story is just as electric and hypnotic and breathless as the best albums you play on repeat to experience all the feels and all the fun, all at once. Fans of Megan Abbott, Alison Gaylin (especially What Remains of Me and If I Die Tonight), and Jessica Knoll will delight in Simon’s writing.
You can buy Hold Me Down here.