NO MAJOR SPOILERS
DI Helen Mirkin’s second case, Murder in the Choir, takes place in the midst of the competitive, annual Opera Music Workshop, where young singers strive to get recognition and compete for a prestigious grant that leads to New York’s best vocal coaches.
A stunning Spanish soprano misses rehearsals for a soon-to-be-aired opera (Wozzeck) and this sets the stage for DI Mirkin’s appearance. Since she knew the singer, she has a personal stake in what happened to her.
Through her eyes, the reader gets to know some of the colorful characters populating the workshop. These include the German singer, Katherine Bergsonn and her bad-ass boyfriend Alex, singer Nimrod Gilead, a middle-aged couple who befriend musicians and are self-appointed patrons of the arts, and others.
While investigating Araceli’s disappearance and subsequent death, DI Mirkin manages to find time to pursue a friendship with Mira, a fully-fledged opera singer to whom she is attracted. She hopes they can become romantically involved. Meanwhile, a famous composer indirectly related to the workshop is shot dead in his home, raising the stakes for DI Mirkin, who investigates whether the deaths are connected.
The book is hard to put down once you get drawn into the world of its gripping, colorful characters. Among other things, it makes you wonder how far you will go to achieve your dream, whatever it is, and how you might deal with the obstacles along the way.
I enjoyed the writer’s nuanced style, with its subtle insights into the workings of the psyche. I found it to be more than ‘just’ a detective story, and was sorry when the novel came to a close. Luckily, there is another Helen Mirkin novel out there, The Rosebush Murders, which is actually the prequel to this one, although clearly, Murder in the Choir can be read out-of-sequence, as I just did.
Added 26th April 2016