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by Gerald Elias

Pub Date: Aug. 16th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-67834-0
Publisher: Minotaur

Discordance threatens a chamber music quartet.

Now that it’s being sued by its former second violinist the New Magini String Quartet is trying to tamp down the negative publicity by agreeing to a Carnegie Hall presentation of Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” that will feature film animation, artwork, live dance and enough special effects for a rock band. Daniel Jacobus (Danse Macabre, 2010, etc.) plans on attending, although he fears the production will denigrate the music as well as the playing of his student and quartet member Yumi Shinagawa. Problems arise at rehearsal, when Kortovsky, the first violinist, never arrives from Lima, Peru, where the quartet played its most recent paying engagement. What may be a part of him, a severed finger, appears on the rehearsal stage in one of the musicians’ instrument cases, to be joined later by three other dismembered fingers. Meanwhile, the quartet’s manager tries to arrange a replacement for him. Her choices are quickly narrowed down to the fired musician who is suing and the man Yumi beat out for inclusion in the quartet. With help from his pal Nathaniel, some gossip among émigrés from Russian and a Lima detective, Jacobus unravels a complicated tangle of relationships that includes an illicit liaison, a castrato’s revenge and as many onstage deaths as a Shakespearean tragedy.

Blind Jacobus, a curmudgeon to the nth degree, redeems himself when he steps in to take the lead in “Death and the Maiden” and performs with such emotional commitment that you’ll want to race right out and buy the CD.