When New York Daily Press reporter Ed Fitzgerald (Ordinary Murder, etc.) meets concertmaster Erik Halvorsen, he's showing off a Stradivarius violin and buying post-concert drinks for the Mozart String Quartet--one of whose members is violinist Ariel Ryan, Ed's only interest in classical music. His next news of Halvorsen is that he was shot to death later that night--and the reported Strad has vanished, if it ever existed. After days of alibi-researching and questioning, Ed's police department nemesis, Detective Theodore Wilson, charges music contractor Mitch Rogers with the murder, supposedly over the favors of violist Ingrid Sohn. Ed, meanwhile, is pursuing the elusive Strad through the workshops of violin-makers Charles La Porte and Hendrik van Leeb--and to the Soho shop of Jason Lamberti, heir to a Strad owned by his uncle. Ed's also pursuing Ariel and the impossible dream of a bucolic future in Vermont. But the murder of La Porte and a few shots aimed his way keep Ed ferreting to an auctionhouse denouement that fizzles but revives in other surroundings. The killer is obvious from early on; the confusing story moves choppily to its anti-climax; and only Ed's resilient charm and a glimpse into the workings of New York's music scene save this one from the doldrums--but not by much.