THE TRASHY ROCK-STAR BIO has always been a failsafe summer read. You get a sleazy tale that's jam-packed with sex, drugs, and... what's that third thing again? The good ones offer a variation on a tried-and-true formula: an unlikely rise to fame, some catty in-band fighting, and, usually, an untimely death.
On every level, Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury is a colossal disappointment. The life and tragic AIDS-related death of Queen's singer has more than ample fodder for, at the very least, a gossipy, page-turning exposé. There's even potential for a serious, investigative look at Mercury, a talented, conflicted man who kept the great secret of both his homosexuality and his Zoroastrian heritage as far from the limelight as he could. Mercury commits the cardinal sin of neither being intelligent enough to be a legitimate biography—its thumbnail analysis of Queen's music is vacuous, for instance—or juicy enough to be any fun.
As a reporter for UK tabloids the Sun and News of the World, author Lesley-Ann Jones covered Queen during the '80s, and she probably thinks she's tellling Freddie Mercury's story with utmost respect. But everything is handled with kid gloves, and other than Mercury, none of the other characters remotely stand out. (If you can differentiate between any of Mercury's numerous boyfriends—let alone his bandmates in Queen—you didn't learn about them from this book.) Jones includes herself in a bunch of the book's photographs, which is weird. And she turns Mercury into a saint, without illuminating what made him such an interesting human in the first place.