The Strings of Murder
Review by: Mark Palm
It’s hard to believe now but the Waltz was once perceived as being a shocking, evil dance, and the interval known as “the flatted fifth” was banned by the Catholic Church. Musicians of unusual virtuosity, such as Niccolo Paganini were rumored to have sold their souls to the devil in exchange for their gifts. I mention all of this because The Strings of Murder is not only a thriller, but it is also a book that is steeped in music and musical lore. It’s no surprise to find out that the Author, Oscar de Muriel is a violinist.
By 1888 most beliefs were dismissed as superstitious claptrap, but when a virtuoso violinist is found brutally murdered inside of his locked practice room, his blood splashed everywhere and mystic symbols scrawled on the walls, it’s no wonder that the authorities are stumped. Afraid that the nation will fear another Jack the Ripper is on the loose Scotland Yard dispatches one of their best, Inspector Ian Frey, to investigate under the pretense of joining a fake department that specializes in investigating the occult. The department’s leader, and Frey’s new boss, Adolphus “Nine-Nails” McGrey believes in the mission of his department. Somehow he and Frey must find a way to work together to solve this crime. They have barely started before bodies start dropping like flies, in more and more mysterious circumstances, and the only link seems to be music and violins. The tension only increases when Frey’s younger brother, Elgie, a violinist suddenly appears in Edinboro, with no place to stay.
After a fairly slow beginning this novel’s pace picks up, and for the most part doesn't slow down until the last twist is revealed. The plot isn’t always the most clever, and a few time I figured things out before the detectives did, but there are enough red herrings scattered about that I was kept off balance. Mr. de Muriel makes up for the occasional plot gaffe with a relentless pace and plenty of narrative drive. The main character’s are solid, if nothing special, and they bicker and insult each other to no end, but like the leads in any buddy novel they come to share a grudging respect.
Equally evident was the author’s love of music, and musical lore and traditions. The life of musicians, and the people who make their instruments and all detailed with care and grace. Without giving away too much I can say that music plays a key role in every facet of how and why these crimes were committed, as well as providing the detectives with several key clues that keep their investigation from failing. It’s refreshing to see an author grasp and utilize a facet of a novel to such effect, and makes The Strings of Murder worth your time.