Monday, March 7, 2011

Violins, Violinists, and Violence

Dance Macabre
by:  Gerald Elias
Minitour Books, New York
277 pp,

Daniel Jacobus, a blind and reclusive violin teacher is the protagonist of this interesting mystery written by Gerald Elias, a Boston Symphony violinist, who also wrote Devil's Trill, the first in this series featuring Daniel Jacobus.  Dance Macabre is the second.

Rene Allard, a famous violinist, is found grotesquely murdered, steps away from his New York apartment, after performing his Carnegie Hall swan song, on his way to retirement in France.  His protege, B Tower, seen bending over the body with blood on his hands, is arrested, tried and found guilty.  But - was he the murderer?  Jacobus is drawn into the investigation of the  murder.  Tower is now on death row, days away from his execution.  The search for clues takes Jacobus to Utah, and then to the inner New York subway tunnels, and the sewers of New York City (a little like the movie, "The Third Man.")  The murder weapon is a puzzle.  How was Rene killed?  The answer is very ingenious.

What sets this mystery apart from others is that woven throughout the story the author shares information about violins, violinists, and composers.  B Tower, while in jail, is not allowed to have a violin, but Jacobus encourages him to practice using an "air violin."  Arm and finger positions are described, as B Tower hears the music in his head as he "plays."

Violins, old New York apartments, and elevators all play a role in the solution of the murder.  Dance Macabre was a pleasure to read.  Any reader who ever took violin lessons would especially enjoy this book.

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