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by Gerald Elias

Pub Date: June 19th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-312-67835-7
Publisher: Minotaur

Is artistic temperament a justification for murder?

The Maestro has been terrorizing musicians for over 40 years. He’s verbally humiliated them, sexually compromised them and summarily fired them. Vaclav Herza’s most recent target is Scheherazade O’Brien, acting concertmaster of the world-renowned symphony orchestra Harmonium. When Sherry asks crotchety, blind old violinists’ mentor Daniel Jacobus for help in dealing with Herza and preparing for her audition as Harmonium’s permanent concertmaster, he declines because his favorite former pupil, Yumi Shinagawa, is also vying for the position. When Herza ousts Sherry from the competition and her job, she’s distraught. Discovered with her wrists slit, she’s rushed to the hospital. Will she ever play again? Will she even survive? Thinking to avenge her, Jacobus has his pal Nathaniel scrutinize Herza’s early life in Prague. Nathaniel uncovers information about a musician Herza may have driven to suicide there as well as rumors that he was a Soviet informer during the 1956 Communist crackdown. Another contact digs up scandals involving Herza’s concerts in Japan, which included an obsession with sumo wrestling and a penchant for cuddling male geishas. Meanwhile, back in the States, Herza is dismissing Harmonium’s board members, support staff and musicians, who are threatening to strike on the evening the orchestra’s new symphony hall is to open, when Jacobus finally confronts Herza, bringing the Maestro’s reign of terror to an end.

Who could resist an insider’s view of Tanglewood, an analysis of Turner’s art and a dog who knows when his slobber is not appreciated? Elias (Death and the Maiden, 2011, etc.) has a nose for creative detail and a refreshing impatience with pomposity. Indulge yourself in his artfulness.