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THE MISSING STRAD

THE STORY OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST VIOLIN FORGERY

An entertaining ramble through a golden age of violin-playing and violin-faking.

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A rollicking historical study that tackles the murky careers of antique violins and the raucous culture of 19th-century virtuosos.

Gaul, a violinist and trustee of the National Music Museum in South Dakota, explores the provenance of two 18th-century Cremonese instruments: the “Messiah” Stradivarius, owned by Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum; and a violin made by luthier Giuseppi Guarneri, now displayed in Genoa’s town hall. The latter was once owned by legendary virtuoso Niccoló Paganini, who dubbed it Il Cannone for its powerful sound. Both violins are of questionable authenticity because of their passage through the workshop of Parisian luthier and violin dealer Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, who was known for making near-perfect copies of Cremonese originals. Vuillaume did repairs on Il Cannone for Paganini in 1833, bought the Messiah himself in 1855, and copied both. Gaul investigates the possibility that a copy was passed off as the original and even exceeded it in quality. The author also dives deeply into old-school violin-making details, from the design of bows to specific techniques to make brand-new violins look very old. Along the way, he steeps readers in the antics of superstar romantic violinists, especially the larger-than-life Paganini; he spotlights the maestro’s astonishing performances, his tempestuous love affairs, his disturbing syphilis symptoms, and his devilish reputation. The book is a meandering jaunt, full of far-flung digressions on such topics as Napoleon Bonaparte’s mistress and the era’s anxiety that female piano players attracted immoral men; these sometimes lose the thread of the overarching mystery but are wonderfully intriguing in their own rights. Gaul relates all of this in elegant, evocative prose: “When it is ill—when it is being pried open with a knife—it makes sickening cracking sounds as its bones are separated,” he writes of Vuillaume’s disassembly of Il Cannone. “Paganini was exquisitely sensitive to sound, and it was a torment to hear his own violin put under the knife.” Lovers of classical music and forensic detective stories will eat it up.

An entertaining ramble through a golden age of violin-playing and violin-faking.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-03-910819-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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UNDER THE BRIDGE

A tour-de-force of true crime reportage.

Godfrey reconstructs a horrific murder with a vividness found in the finest fiction, without ever sacrificing journalistic integrity.

The novel The Torn Skirt (2002) showed how well the author could capture the roiling inner life of a teenager. She brings that sensibility to bear in this account of the 1997 murder of a 14-year-old girl in British Columbia, a crime for which seven teenage girls and one boy were charged. While there’s no more over-tilled literary soil than that of the shocking murder in a small town, Godfrey manages to portray working-class View Royal in a fresh manner. The victim, Reena Virk, was a problematic kid. Rebelling against her Indian parents’ strict religiosity, she desperately mimicked the wannabe gangsta mannerisms of her female schoolmates, who repaid her idolization by ignoring her. The circumstances leading up to the murder seem completely trivial: a stolen address book, a crush on the wrong guy. But popular girls like Josephine and Kelly had created a vast, imaginary world (mostly stolen from mafia movies and hip-hop) in which they were wildly desired and feared. In this overheated milieu, reality was only a distant memory, and everything was allowed. The murder and cover-up are chilling. Godfrey parcels out details piecemeal in the words of the teens who took part or simply watched. None of them seemed to quite comprehend what was going on, why it happened or even—in a few cases—what the big deal was. The tone veers close to melodrama, but in this context it works, since the author is telling the story from the inside out, trying to approximate the relentlessly self-dramatizing world these kids inhabited. Given most readers’ preference for easily explained and neatly concluded crime narratives, Godfrey’s resolute refusal to impose false order on the chaos of a murder spawned by rumors and lies is commendable.

A tour-de-force of true crime reportage.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-1091-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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