Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Baby Grand by Joseph E. Keene and William W. Johnstone

Baby Grand
by Joseph E. Keene and William W. Johnstone
1987 Zebra Books

"You look like a retarded penguin."

Bill Elliott is a soldier of fortune who retires and moves home to Tennessee to be a private detective.  His first case: investigate a haunted piano for his old friend Joe Conrad.  The piano plays music by itself and occasionally talks.

Meanwhile, someone is kidnapping and raping local virgins.  We never find out who or why, something about a ceremony.  This is the closest this book comes to the sleaziness we're used to from Johnstone.

Elliott hangs around town for a hundred pages or so, spending a lot of time with teen Carol.  He finds a book about local pianos at the library but some pages are torn out.

A zombie shows up in Conrad's house and hits Elliott over the head with a chair, and the piano chases him around the house, snapping it's lid while playing the theme from Jaws.  Elliott and Carol visit the haunted house next door.  There are eyes following them in paintings, flying candlesticks, the whole Haunted Mansion treatment.

Meanwhile, folks around town seem to be getting rude, and they stop bathing.  You know the drill by now.

For once, Johnstone doesn't lay all his cards on the table all at once.  Though once he finally does, he's got a seven high.

The piano belonged to the Wellingtons, a rich family who owns the town.  Old man Wellington got mad because nobody came to his kid's piano recital, so he sold his soul to Satan.  That's it.  That explains the possessed piano, why the town is full of evil people, and why folks are coming back to the dead as werewolves.

Not Beasts like the other books.  Actual dogs.  You sell your soul to Satan and you can be killed once, and you come back as a zombie who can turn into a dog.  A dog who can be easily killed a second time with conventional weapons.

Which Bill Elliott does by the score, while blowing up everything around with C4.  He sets the piano on fire, the end.

No consequences for murdering half the town, and tons of loose ends.  The librarian's mom may or not be a witch.  There was a ghost of a priest who does nothing.  Some business of Conrad's dead wife being possessed as a teen and Carol getting local rednecks to break his hands.

Speaking of Carol, Elliott remembers the he hooked up with her Mom nine months before she was born and finally puts things together, working that private detective mind of his.

Too long, too padded, too tame.  It may be all downhill from here.

Why is the skeleton man not wearing shoes?  And there are no children in the entire book.

Currently not available for Kindle, likely complicated by the dual authorship.  I'm curious about Keene's contributions - the only other book I could find by him was about songwriting.

Used paperback from Amazon.

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