While on a visit to New York City, a detective attracted to an opera singer finds himself targeted by a jealous rival.
In the 14th installment of his 1920s Detective Cyrus Skeen series, Cline (Wintery Discontent, 2015, etc.) follows the intrepid Cyrus from San Francisco to New York, where he must pay a visit to his parents’ lawyer while his secretary-turned-wife, Dilys Jones, remains in California. In New York, Cyrus meets opera diva Brianna O’Quill, who lives in his parents’ apartment building and who immediately takes a shine to Cyrus. Cyrus, who is determined to remain faithful to the wife he loves, feels an attraction to Brianna, who senses this and decides to continue pursuing him as she prepares for her starring role in Mozart’s The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera House. At one point, Cyrus admits to himself that he finds her “very tempting” (“She had ignited a spark of desire in him that he hadn’t felt since encountering Dilys. He enjoyed her manner and style and almost everything else about her”). Unfortunately, Cyrus is not the only man in Brianna’s life, and he soon realizes that he’s the target of an envious rival. Is it mysterious composer Leopold Schacht, domineering director Morton Lawry, or smitten bass-baritone Charles Durance who has it in for Cyrus? And will the opera production proceed smoothly as Cyrus tries to stop a possible killer? Cline certainly lays the groundwork for an entertaining 1920s mystery here. He possesses a keen eye for period details, including the intricacies of the opera business, that helps make the story entertaining. Unfortunately, the characters feel like flat, unremarkable archetypes. The flamboyant Brianna says such melodramatic lines, like “I won’t mind the agony, Cyrus. It’s all I know” and “You, however, sweetheart, can look up my skirt any time,” that she seems like a strange blend of Greta Garbo and Mae West. Cyrus, meanwhile, is supposed to be a hard-boiled Bogart-esque gumshoe, but he spends so much time reading about opera that he doesn’t get a chance to show off any mystery-solving skills. The novel’s length—109 pages—means that there isn’t much in the way of either character development or suspenseful plotting. In the end, more space is devoted to providing lengthy summaries of the opera than to crafting a satisfying mystery for readers.
A mystery thriller about an enticing diva that lacks fully developed characters and a dynamic plot.