Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pierce’s Picks: “Death and Transfiguration”

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

Death and Transfiguration, by Gerald Elias (Minotaur):
“Write what you know” goes that dusty old aphorism--and author Elias certainly knows the world of symphony orchestras. Which is part of what makes his Daniel Jacobus mystery novels such rewarding reads. A former violinist with the Boston Symphony and assistant concertmaster with the Utah Symphony, Elias brings his behind-the-scenes experiences to these books, the fourth of which--Death and Transfiguration (the title borrowed from a tone poem by Richard Strauss)--is being released this week. But what also distinguishes Elias’ series is its continuing cast of players, particularly Jacobus, an aging and indefatigably caustic former star violinist who, since falling blind at the apogee of his renown, has become a reluctant music teacher residing in semi-exile in New England. In Death and Transfiguration, his musical expertise and encouragement are solicited by Scheherazade “Sherry” O’Brien, a gifted violinist herself, who’s trying out for the position of concertmaster with Harmonium, a touring orchestra under the direction of Vaclav Herza, a tyrannical conductor who escaped political turmoil in Czechoslovakia during the mid-1950s. Like many of her fellow musicians, O’Brien objects to Maestro Herza’s psychological abuse; but she’s willing to go one risky step further than the rest, filing a grievance against this man who will help decide her professional fate. When, after a disastrous audition, O’Brien is found with her wrists slashed, amateur sleuth Jacobus determines to bring Herza down by digging into his murky history in Prague and Tokyo, hoping thereby to quiet the guilt he feels for not helping O’Brien more than he did. Jacobus may not be the only one, however, who’s seeking revenge against the egotistical maestro.

READ MORE:Gerald Elias,” by Raymond Taras (Author Interviews).

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