DEATH NOTES by Sarah Rayne


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In investigating the life of a notorious 19th-century Russian violinist, a researcher stumbles on a tangle of disturbing mysteries.

Roman Volf was executed in 1881 for his role in the assassination of Czar Alexander II of Russia, but the recent discovery of an obscure Russian book from 1920 casts doubt on the virtuoso violinist’s guilt. Renowned documentary filmmaker Phineas Fox receives an offer to delve into the matter for a possible film. A key component in his research is the account of Mortimer Quince, a music hall performer of the era whose identity Roman discovers via a webpage. Quince’s diary entries are woven into Fox’s narrative, with an additional thread provided by the story of Beatrice, a mother who imagines that she hears her deceased daughter, Abigail, calling out to her. Beatrice bitterly blames a man named Maxim Volf, who was a witness to Abi’s death. When Beatrice comes across Maxim Volf’s grave, the headstone dated 1955, more than 50 years before he had seen Abi die, she turns sleuth to ferret out Maxim’s history. Meanwhile Phineas revisits Roman's haunts. His trail leads him to love letters from the passionate Antoinette, and he also meets Maxim. There’ll be many more twists and turns on the way to unraveling the mystery of Roman and the details surrounding Abigail’s death.

Rayne, author of the Nell West haunted house books (The Bell Tower, 2016, etc.), kicks off an ambitious new series. The complicated plot may be challenging for readers, but her atmospheric prose and sure-footed instinct for suspense add up to another page-turner.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8660-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Severn House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2016


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