ELEGY FOR A SOPRANO by Kay Nolte Smith


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Another slow, talky melodrama from the author of Mindspell and Catching Fire--this one with the formulaic plod (but neither the cleverness nor the suspense) of an old-timey gothic whodunit. The murder victim is famed, Callas-like opera diva Vardis Wolf, dead from cyanide (poison in her headache medicine) at 51. The suspects? Vardis' four closest old chums--all of whom confess their guilt, apparently to protect the one among them who actually did kill Vardis. Was the murderer Vardis' meek, adoring husband Conrad, whom she constantly belittled and humiliated? Was it Conrad's sister Merle, who resented Vardis' charismatic stranglehold on both Conrad and Merle's daughter Jenny? Was it childhood friend Cary--who came to hate Vardis? Or pathetic Vardis-worshipper Hannah? And how does the murder relate to the shadowy past of these five Jewish/non-Jewish pals. . .who met as orphan-refugees from Europe during WW II? Those are the questions for NYPD cop Sam Lyons--but most of the chatty sleuthing here is done by unengaging young widow Dinah Mitchell, who has just learned that she is Vardis Wolf's illegitimate daughter, abandoned at birth! (By creaky coincidence, Dinah happens to be chummy, from way back, with cop Sam.) Earnestly seeking the Truth about her real mother, Dinah interrogates all concerned at wearisome length, triggering flashbacks to the Forties and Fifties. She finds herself falling for sauve, mysterious Cary--a relationship that culminates in pulp passion and tortured regret. And, once she learns the dark secrets of Vardis & Co. (a feverish yet ho-hum cluster of revelations), Dinah faces some familiar, murky quandaries--about law vs. morality (is murder ever justified?), about the special privileges of super-talents (do they have the right to be amoral?). Thickened with soap-opera dialogue, short on surprises, tension, and charm: an artificial, obvious fabrication--less frenetically contrived than Smith's previous outings, but also much less energetic.

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1985
Publisher: Villard/Random House