Think the competition among music students at Juilliard is fierce? Wait till you hear what the family of violinist Anna Svardak has done, and is prepared to do, to anyone they consider a rival.
By the time John Svardak sets his sights on Cara Delaney, he's already murdered four other violinists on both sides of the Atlantic because their music-making can't compare to that of his long-dead violinist sister, Anna. In fact, the chain of vengeance goes back even further, since Cara's grandfather Sergai Kaskov murdered Anna as payback for the time years earlier when Anna's father and brother broke Kaskov's finger bones in the gulag where they were imprisoned together because they feared him as yet another possible competitor in the days when she was still alive. Svardak succeeds in snatching Cara from her concert tour and hiding her out in the wilds of West Virginia as he cackles over the fate she’ll share with her most recent predecessor, violinist Marian Napier. Fortunately, Cara’s guardians, forensic sculptor Eve Duncan and Detective Joe Quinn of the Atlanta Police Department, and Michael, Eve’s preternaturally empathic 10-year-old son, are fully equal to the challenge of locating her before she can follow Niccolò Paganini and Jascha Heifetz into history. So for that matter is Cara herself, who’s so eager to consummate her recently professed love for Eve’s childhood friend Jock Gavin that she’s doubly watchful and resourceful in planning her escape. But restoring Cara to the bosom of her family is only one more chapter in the war declared by Svardak, who’s “crazy, not a ruthless sociopath,” as Joe helpfully observes, and who’s bent on eliminating everyone Cara loves before he returns to sweep her up again, this time for keeps, as a final tribute to his dead sister.
The densely woven backstory, the oracular speeches, the elliptically motivated vendetta, and the constant recourse to near-supernatural powers all suggest that what Johansen (Vendetta, 2018, etc.) is writing is not a fairy tale for adults but a fairy tale with a mostly adult cast.