Fictional Books that prominently feature the viola or a violist. Enjoy!
An Inexpressible State of Grace
New York: Harrington Park Press, 2004; ISBN: 1560234695; 9781560234692
Description from the publisher: “Dissatisfied in her marriage and haunted by memories of the woman who broke her heart in college, New York attorney Ashleigh Moore sees the final unraveling of her neatly ordered life begin the minute she receives a letter from the father she’s never met. At the same time, her career is suddenly jeopardized by the manipulations of the firm’s most powerful partner. Suddenly, she’s in charge of a case involving a ruthless client—a client whose stunning in-house counsel evokes in Ashleigh a hunger that she has kept safely buried for fifteen years. Desperate to salvage her career and at the same time determined to unravel a family secret that has been shrouded in mystery since her childhood, Ashleigh embarks on a journey that will challenge her professional ethics, test her deepest family loyalties, and rekindle the white-hot passion she has denied herself for too long. Teeming with the unbridled eroticism that readers of Cameron Abbott have come to love, An Inexpressible State of Grace is a sizzling page-turner that will keep you guessing to the very end!”
Claire Michaels, the woman who broke Ashleigh’s heart in college, appears with her viola in flashbacks, primarily in chapters seven and eight.
Aiken, Ginny, Lynn A Coleman, Bev Huston, Yvonne Lehman
Strings of the Heart
Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Pub., ; ISBN: 158660967X; 9781586609672
Genre: Inspirational Romance
Description from the publisher: “For the Miami-based ‘Classic Strings’ quartet, the mellow tones of violin, viola, bass, and cello blend in perfect harmony. But discord fills the personal life of each member. Marissa Soliz, who plays the upright bass, has serious doubts about the new proprietor of Silkwood Kennels. In the past, her beloved Afghan always received pampered treatment there. While she’s on tour, can Marissa dare trust her dog to Jason Easton’s care? Tyronne Carver, the group’s cellist, hits a sour note when his disgruntled neighbor, Cassy Michaels, complains about the noise of his practicing. Will she ever change her tune over Tyronne? When Cynthia Powers waltzed back into Tristan Rueben’s life, his heart skips a beat. But should he set aside his viola to pursue the woman who years ago broke his heart? Eva Alano not only plays the violin, she makes them. She’s thrilled when famed violinist Giorgio Baldovino expresses an interest in more than just her work . . . but why can’t she shake that jokester, Jack Darren, from her thoughts? The Classic Strings have often performed at weddings . . . but will they ever hear strains of the ‘Wedding March’ played for them? Can faith sustain them as they wait for the perfect harmony of love?”
This book is composed of four novellas, each devoted to an individual member of the string quartet (though all the members make an appearance in each novella). The third novella, Syncopation, by Bev Huston, is devoted to violist Tristan Reuben. Opening with his abduction and a near-death experience, Tristan reevaluates the love that he let escape six years ago.
Beat the Reaper
New York: Little, Brown, 2009; ISBN: 9780316032223; 0316032220
Description from the publisher: “Dr. Peter Brown is an intern at Manhattan’s worst hospital, with a talent for medicine, a shift from hell, and a past he’d prefer to keep hidden. Whether it’s a blocked circumflex artery or a plan to land a massive malpractice suit, he knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Pietro “Bearclaw” Brnwna is a hitman for the mob, with a genius for violence, a well-earned fear of sharks, and an overly close relationship with the Federal Witness Relocation Program. More likely to leave a trail of dead gangsters than a molecule of evidence, he’s the last person you want to see in your hospital room. Nicholas LoBrutto, aka Eddy Squillante, is Dr. Brown’s new patient, with three months to live and a very strange idea: that Peter Brown and Pietro Brnwa might-just might-be the same person . . . Now, with the mob, the government, and death itself descending on the hospital, Peter has to buy time and do whatever it takes to keep his patients, himself, and his last shot at redemption alive. To get through the next eight hours-and somehow beat the reaper. Spattered in adrenaline-fueled action and bone-saw-sharp dialogue, BEAT THE REAPER is a debut thriller so utterly original you won’t be able to guess what happens next, and so shockingly entertaining you won’t be able to put it down.”
The violist in this book is the Romanian-born Magdalena Niemerover, who is playing viola at a wedding on August 13, 1999, when she catches the eye of hitman Pietro “Bearclaw” Brnwna
Sex and Violins
[S.l.]: Xlibris, 2008; ISBN: 9781425780609; 9781425780012
Genre: Erotic Fiction
Description from the publisher: “What would happen if an ex hustler, who traded his body for sex and money met a naïve young violinist playing a Broadway show? From a beach on Long Island to the wild and crazy world of New York nightlife, this story unfolds. The hustler has a face of an angel and a body like mortal sin, and the violinist is a bright, talented conservatory student. There is love but also loss as the two come to grips with coming from different worlds.”
The “naïve young violinist” is William Henry Bernard, who is accepted into Juilliard as a viola student of Lillian Fuchs. Over the course of the book, he becomes a successful professor of violin and viola at the Manhattan School of Music with two of his students placing in the Primrose Viola Competition.
The Piper’s Story: A Tale of War, Music, and the Supernatural
Brenham, TX: Clay Bridges Press, 2013; ISBN: 9781939815002; 1939815002
Description from the publisher: “What might a clairvoyant see in wartime? In May 1940, Scottish piper Ian MacGregor’s visions lead to a devastating encounter with a supernatural being. Blinded and left for dead by his unit, he is mysteriously guided to safety by the music of an otherworldly piper. More than half a century later, in the Pacific Northwest, in a grand old house resonating with discordant echoes, his grandson Neal must also confront a supernatural being in a life and death battle. As Neal searches for the key to defeat this most formidable foe, he learns how the history of the past, rising up like the skirling of the pipes, is inextricably linked to the present.”
The violist in this book is Sarah Friedkin, who previously played in the chamber group Musicians of Brooklyn and now owns a travel shop in the Seattle area. The Musicians of Brooklyn make an appearance in her hometown, and she joins them for a concert in chapter 13, titled “The Violist Plays.”
The Vagabond’s Legacy
[S.l.]: Wimabi Press, 2009 ; ISBN: 9780578023595; 0578023598
Description from the publisher: “Chronically irresponsible Duncan Flowers has a rude awakening when his junky, unlocked car falls prey to a thief, who also makes off with the beat-up viola that Duncan inherited from his eccentric drifter of a grandfather. Duncan wants nothing more than to put the unfortunate event behind him, but the sacred trust that binds him to his grandfather’s instrument is not easily broken. The viola’s true nature soon pulls Duncan into unimagined intrigue involving a powerful real estate magnate, a renowned British antiquities expert, a master instrument maker and an aspiring fast-buck artist. To unlock the secret of his grandfather’s legacy and to overcome the lingering demons of his broken marriage, Duncan must be prepared to rise out of his rut and take on the forces aligned against him. And his biggest obstacle just might be himself.”
A heavily viola-centric novel, this book focuses on the journey of the stolen viola as well as Duncan’s side-work as a violist and a viola teacher.
An Unfinished Score
[Denver, CO.]: Unbridled books, 2010; ISBN: 9781936071661; 1936071665; 9781609530396;
Description from the publisher: “As she prepares dinner for her husband and their extended family, Suzanne hears on the radio that a jetliner has crashed and her lover is dead. Alex Elling was a renowned orchestra conductor. Suzanne is a concert violist, long unsatisfied with her marriage to a composer whose music turns emotion into thought. Now, more alone than she’s ever been, she must grieve secretly. But as complex as that effort is, it pales with the arrival of Alex’s widow, who blackmails her into completing the score for Alex’s unfinished viola concerto. As Suzanne struggles to keep her double life a secret from her husband, from her best friend, and from the other members of her quartet, she is consumed by memories of a rich love affair saturated with music. Increasingly manipulated by her lover’s widow and tormented by the concerto’s many layers, Suzanne realizes she may lose everything she’s spent her life working for.”
Twice in a Lifetime
New York: iUniverse, 2005; ISBN: 0595368751; 9780595368754
Description from the publisher: “Content with raising her two small children alone, after her husband’s unexpected death. Delaney Wallace lives a quiet life, painting on the beach, in her Southern California home. That contentment and solitude comes to a screeching halt when New Yorker, Devin Caine decides to take a vacation from playing the viola in the New York Philharmonic, only a few doors down from Laney. After their first run-in, Devin is puzzled by his quick and stunning reaction to Laney. She is not only beautiful, but her fiery passion, hidden under so much pain, has only intrigued him more. He pursues her, only to be pushed away, time after time. Laney, terrified by her reactions to Devin, isn’t willing to take the chance to put her heart on the line, only to have it broken again. Can her heart talk her mind into playing the game? Or will Laney continue to stay out of the battle, Devin is so willing to fight and win?”
The Bent Twig
New York: Henry Holt, 1915
Athens: Ohio University Press, 1997; ISBN: 0821411853; 9780821411858
Description from the publisher (Ohio University Press): “Unlike other young women of her generation, who were ‘bred up from childhood to sit behind tea-tables and say the right things to tea-drinkers,’ Sylvia Marshall—the ‘twig’ of this novel—was reared to think for herself and to trust her own instincts and experience. This, coupled with her passionate temperament, makes Sylvia a compelling figure as she resists efforts to mold her with every rebellious fiber of her independent nature. Sylvia’s home is a Montessori home, where everyone takes part in household tasks, and the children learn by being included in adult activities. Without making a show of being different, her father, a popular professor at the midwest state university in La Chance, lives the life of the mind in a rambling farmhouse instead of on faculty row among his upwardly mobile colleagues; her mother’s wardrobe is more suited to canning tomatoes than to impressing the sophisticated ‘town set.’ Although Sylvia adapts outwardly to her parents’ values, inwardly she suffers because of her family’s difference from both town and university standards. A dazzling occasional presence in her life is the flamboyant Aunt Victoria, who keeps a mansion in Lydford, Vermont, and an apartment in Paris. Sylvia responds to such luxury, and her attempts to evade moral questions concerning the distribution of wealth lend a human aspect to a social dilemma.”
The violist in this book is Sylvia’s father, Professor Marshall, who established a weekly string quartet meeting in his home. While his viola-playing is not a major theme throughout the book, this novel, published in 1915, is notable for such an early reference to a fictional violist.
Mystery of the Singing Strings
New York: Coward-McCann, 1961.
Description from the publisher: “It started very innocently—even for the Hadley children, Peter, Bob, and Eileen. They went to the airport for the arrival of the famous violist. And the mystery began. First, the Hadleys met Horace Elik who had a strange friendship with Nicolas Matthias. Then the violist became ill and spent the night at the Hadley home. That wasn’t so mysterious until Dr. Lindsay said that Mr. Matthias wasn’t sick at all. In rapid succession, events piled up which plunged the mystery-loving Hadleys into a new and exciting adventure. There was the new sonata that Horace Elik was so anxious to get his hands on, and the music group which held strange meetings. And there was Toby, the young crippled boy who wanted to make violas.”
Coombs, Karen Mueller
BULLY at Ambush Corner
[S.n.]: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012; ISBN: 1479184071; 978-
Description from the publisher: “Every day after school, Tink is waiting at Ambush Corner to use Rocky for a punching bag. He can’t tell his parents. His father will order him to stand up for himself and to fight back. His mother, worried that Rocky will break a finger and not be able to play his viola in the upcoming music competition, will forbid him to fight. What neither parent knows is that Rocky thinks fighting is stupid and that he has decided to become a pacifist, a secret Rocky is keeping even from his best friend, Mario, who might not approve of Rocky’s wish to be peaceable. Rocky tries all sorts of plans to end the bullying without success, even recruiting his older sister, who steps in only to make the situation worse. Eventually, however, Rocky’s music teacher helps him understand Tink’s behavior, which gives Rocky a new idea to try, one that might end the daily bullying, gain his father’s approval, and still allow him to be a pacifist. Links to resources about bullying and a Discussion Guide are included.”
New York: Walker, 2003; ISBN: 0802788513; 9780802788511
Genre: Elementary and Junior High-School
Description from the publisher: “Mia, a violist, and Will, a tennis player, each relate their feelings about each other, school, friends, and family troubles as they struggle to understand the opposite sex and to survive being fifteen.”
The Baileys Harbor Bird and Booyah Club
Madison, WI: Terrace Books, 2012; ISBN: 9780299286705; 0299286703; 9780299286736 (e-book)
Description from the publisher: “Open this book and you are in Door County, Wisconsin, strolling down Coot Lake Road—a one-lane, dead-end gravel track just a few miles from Baileys Harbor and the Lake Michigan shore. Along the way you meet George and Helen O’Malley, who are growing old gracefully. Russell, their brave and empathetic golden retriever, wags hello and offers you a paw to shake. The Olsons and the Berges live just down the road. Bump Olson is the local septic tank pumper and birdwatcher extraordinaire, and Hans Berge, MD, PhD., was at one time the only Norwegian psychiatrist in Chicago—or so he says. In a cottage out by the highway, you may spot Lloyd Barnes, ex–Tennessee state trooper, hound fancier, and local man of mystery. Uncle Petter Sorenson, visiting from Grand Forks, takes the polar bear plunge at Jacksonport. Around the neighborhood you’ll meet Deputy Doug, the flirtatious cellist Debbie Dombrowski, and Italian import Rosa Zamboni. Dave Crehore’s sketches of life on the Door peninsula also expound on: the delights of codfish pizza how to insult Canadians what to expect at your fiftieth high school reunion how to lose a school board election the prevention of creeping old-fogyism Marilyn, a buxom eight-pound smallmouth bass and what goes on in the winter, when no one is there.”
The primary character, George O’Malley, played viola in community orchestras and amateur string quartets while working in Chicago and is invited to play a holiday concert with the newly formed Accidental Quartet.
A Field of Scarlet Poppies
London: Quartet Books, 1976; ISBN: 0704321890
The central character in this book is Will, a once promising cellist, whose many tribulations—an alcoholic wife, his unsatisfactory work on the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and his relationship with the composer (and violist) John Wersby—permeate throughout the book. In the background are the members of his string quartet, including the violist Julius, who are rehearsing a work by Wersby.
London: Quartet Books, 1979; ISBN: 0704320673
Description from the publisher: “This is a story of our times about work, and phobias, and callous bureaucratic planning, and revolt, and treachery and other things. Set in an area of decaying squares and streets ripe for development, this rich, complex and very satisfying novel explores and satirizes the reactions between various individuals, categories and classes of a community. In the foreground are the Olsens, the liberal middle-class couple, well-meaning and conscientious; Saul Chatland, the West Indian who finds himself a white man’s black man, an object for pity or alarm; John Wersby, a neurotic misanthropic composer and latent racist; hippies; hell’s angels: these assorted characters are subtly contrasted to show up the ambiguities and hypocrasies of so many of our racial attitudes and political poses. In the background are the developers and the local council—the only people who really seem to know what they want and where they stand.”
The violist in this book is the composer John Wersby, who also figures in Dawson’s book A Field of Scarlet Poppies.
Kindle Edition; ISBN: 9781618425010
Description from the publisher: “Aldo Branch is a homicide detective in Houston, and also an amateur musician who loves playing viola in string quartets. He is called to a Houston park where the members of the Kyoto Quartet have been found murdered and their Stradivarius instruments stolen. Branch and his partner, Chat (for Chatahoochee) Jackson, begin by interviewing the Houston elites who had attended the post-concert party at the home of billionaire oilman Clint Mattingly. Celia Hargrove, an insurance investigator, soon joins them. Branch is attracted to her, though he is still obsessed by a pianist named Allegra, who has married a possible suspect. Branch’s own quartet consists of a physician, an engineer, and a physicist, who sometimes give him information helpful to his case. Also involved is a right-wing group interested in something other than the Strads.”
In addition to Aldo Branch, two other violists make appearances: the murdered violist of the Kyoto Quartet, Naoki Watanabe, (whose stolen Strad is described as Paganini’s viola), and a viola-playing history professor at Rice University, Frank Billings, whom Aldo approaches for help:
Frank: “Got any suspects?”
Aldo: “Not yet. I’m so desperate I have to come ask a violist.”
Dunlap, Susanne Emily
The Musician’s Daughter
New York: Bloomsbury, 2009; ISBN: 9781599903323; 1599903326
Genre: Young Adult
Description from the publisher: “Amid the glamour of Prince Nicholas Esterhazy’s court in 18th-century Vienna, murder is afoot. Or so fifteen-year-old Theresa Maria is convinced when her musician father turns up dead on Christmas Eve, his valuable violin missing, and the only clue to his death a strange gold pendant around his neck. Then her father’s mentor, the acclaimed composer Franz Joseph Haydn, helps her through a difficult time by making her his copyist and giving her insight into her father’s secret life. It’s there that Theresa begins to uncover a trail of blackmail and extortion, even as she discovers honor, and the possibility of a first, tentative love. Thrumming with the weeping strains of violins, as well as danger and deception, this is an engrossing tale of murder, romance, and music that readers will find hard to forget.”
The heroine, Theresa Maria, plays viola, but hopes to graduate up to the violin, though her prospects as a musician in the eighteenth century appear limited (Theresa’s mother is noted to have often said: “Playing the viola will not get her a husband, and she cannot work for her keep”). Also includes Zoltán Varga, who plays violin and viola.
Death and the Maiden
New York: Minotaur Books, 2011; ISBN: 9780312678340 (hardback)
Description from the publisher: “As the New Magini String Quartet prepares for a performance of Schubert’s masterpiece, “Death and the Maiden,” which it hopes will resuscitate its faltering career, someone starts picking off members of the string quartet a la Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Dogged by internal dissension and by a potentially devastating lawsuit from its fired second violinist, the famed New Magini String Quartet is on the brink of professional and personal collapse. The quartet pins its hopes on a multi-media Carnegie Hall performance of Franz Schubert’s masterpiece, ‘Death and the Maiden,’ to resurrect its faltering fortunes. But as the fateful downbeat approaches, a la Agatha Christie, one by one the quartet’s musicians mysteriously vanish, including second violinist, Yumi Shinagawa, former student of renowned blind pedagogue and amateur sleuth, Daniel Jacobus.It is left up to the begrudging Jacobus, with his old friend, Nathaniel Williams, and a new member of the detective team, Trotsky the bulldog, to unravel the deadly puzzle. As usual, it ends up more than Jacobus bargained for”
Includes the New Magini String Quartet’s violist, Annika Haagen, whose viola case figures prominently in the mystery. The former violist of the Magini String Quartet, Vladimir Greunig, also appears.
Death and Transfiguration
New York: Minotaur Books, 2012 ; ISBN: 9780312678357
Description from the publisher: “Vaclav Herza, the last of a dying breed of great but tyrannical conductors, has been music director of Harmonium for forty years. The world famous touring orchestra was created for him when he fled Czechoslovakia for America during the political turmoil in Eastern Europe in 1956. It is the eve of the opening of a dramatic new concert hall designed by Herza himself. It is also the eleventh hour of intense contract negotiations with the musicians that have strained relations within the organization. When the acting concertmaster, Scheherazade O’Brien, is summarily dismissed by the despotic Herza for the permanent concertmaster position, an audition she was poised to win, O’Brien slits her wrists and the orchestra becomes convulsed. Now, blind, cantankerous violin teacher Daniel Jacobus, who had shunned O’Brien’s earlier plea for help against Herza’s relentless harassment, investigates Herza’s dark past not only in Prague, but in Tokyo and New York. With the help of his old friends Nathaniel Williams, Max Furukawa, and Martin Lilburn, he seeks not only revenge but redemption from the guilt of his own past.”
Includes two violists who are standpartners: Ebeneezer “Beanie” Frumkin and Casper “Cappy” Lulich, who have what is termed a “hate-hate relationship.”
Estrada, Rita Clay
The Twelve Gifts of Christmas (Harlequin Temptation series, no. 518)
New York: Harlequin Books, 1994; ISBN: 0373256183; 9780373256181
Richmond: Mills and Boon, 1994; ISBN: 0263793168; 9780263793161
Description from the publisher: “WAS HE NAUGHTY OR NICE? On the first day of Christmas, Carly Michaels’s true love gave to her . . . a headache! Pete Cade might be the hunk every woman dreams of finding under her tree. But he was also a real Scrooge. At the top of Carly’s Christmas list was the “c” word—commitment. And Pete wasn’t ready to give that kind of gift. Carly could have easily settled for his kisses, as heady cider. His touch, as gentle as snowflakes. His lovemaking, as exciting as Christmas morning. But she had more than her own needs to think of. She wanted Pete to give her the greatest Yuletide gift of all—a father for her daughter.”
The violist in this book is Carly’s seven-year-old daughter, Karen, who attends lessons twice a week and is preparing for a viola competition.
The Winter Rider
Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1960; reprinted Sag Harbor, NY: Second Chance Press, 1990; ISBN:
Description from the publisher: “They meet by chance on a Georgia road: William Wesley Johns, a middle-aged novelist with a manuscript to mail, and the girl with two fiddle cases who hitches a ride. In a lonesome spot the fan belt breaks, so Johns and the girl, Jo, who is as independent as a bird and as spontaneously musical, set out through the woods to find help. What they find instead is an absorbing adventure, a cast of backwoods people, and a strange journey down a haunting river. The bizarre events among the primitive people they meet in the woods parallel the discovery by Johns of the subterranean realities of his own life which he has tried to ignore. At the center is the girl, intuitive and unpredictable, who is responsible both for the adventure and the discovery.”
The “girl with two fiddle cases” is Jo Seeley, a recently axed violist from the Columbia, SC Symphony. (When William asks what she plans to do now, she responds “No trouble at all. God loves viola players, there are so few of us. Everybody wants to play first fiddle.”)
Francis, Dick, and Felix Francis
New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2007; ISBN: 9780399154768; 0399154760
Description from the publisher: “Max Moreton is a rising culinary star, and his Newmarket restaurant, the Hay Net, has brought him great acclaim and a widening circle of admirers. But when nearly all the guests who enjoyed one of his meals at a private catered affair fall victim to severe food poisoning, his kitchen is shuttered and his reputation takes a hit. Scrambling to meet his next obligation, an exclusive luncheon for forty in the glass-fronted private boxes at the 2,000 Guineas, Max must overcome the previous evening’s disaster and provide the new American sponsors of the year’s first Classic race with a day to remember. Then a bomb blast rips through the private boxes, killing some of Max’s trusted staff and many of the guests. As survivors are rushed to the hospital, he is left to survey the ruins of the grandstand—and of his career. Two close calls are too close for comfort, and Max vows to protect his name, and himself, before it’s too late.”
The violist in this book is Caroline Aston, who was performing in a string quartet at the ill-fated private catered affair. A victim of food poisoning herself, Caroline sues Max, only to become an ally in his quest to clear his name.
Frommer, Sara Hoskinson
Author of a series of mysteries, featuring the amateur violist/detective Joan Spencer
Murder in C Major
New York: St. Martin’s, 1986; ISBN: 0312552998; 9780312552992
Description from the publisher: “The Oliver Civic Symphony is just another small-town orchestra, a gathering spot for local amateur musicians. It has weekly rehearsals, punch and cookies, and colorful gossip, and now . . . it has murder. An oboist suddenly drops dead of what turns out to be a rare posion. A flutist’s throat is slashed. Joan Spencer is new in town—but quickly becomes an old hand at digging out clues. And with the help of Oliver policeman Fred Lundquist, she uncovers a daring melody that only a murderous virtuoso could perform.”
Buried in Quilts
New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994; ISBN: 0312114729; 9780312114725
Description from the publisher: “In Oliver, Indiana, Joan Spencer, the amateur sleuth who is manager of the civic orchestra, has another murder to solve. The orchestra is due to play at a prestigious quilt show when the organizer of the show is found dead under a pile of quilts. To complicate matters Joan’s estranged daughter chooses that moment to return.”
Murder & Sullivan
New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997; ISBN: 0312155956; 9780312155957
Description from the publisher: “A judge is murdered while performing in an amateur production of an opera by Gilbert and Sullivan in a college town in Indiana. Sleuth Joan Spencer, who plays the viola in the orchestra which provided the music, teams up with a detective and discovers the judge had many enemies.”
The Vanishing Violinist
New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 1999; ISBN: 0312241046; 9780312241049
Description from the publisher: “Sleuth and violist Joan Spencer of Indiana searches for a Brazilian player and her Stradivarius, gone missing during an international competition. Suspected by police is a contestant who is Joan’s future son-in-law and she has to clear his name.”
Witness in Bishop Hill
New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2002; ISBN: 0312302436; 9780312302436
Description from the publisher: “Taking a long-delayed honeymoon to Bishop Hill, Joan Spencer joins forces with her spouse to uncover the truth when her mother-in-law, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, becomes the sole witness to a brutal murder.”
Death Climbs a Tree
New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2005; ISBN: 0312329210; 9780312329211
Description from the publisher: “Just before a big concert, Joan Spencer, manager of the Civic Symphony in Oliver, Indiana, learns that she will be minus her first violinist, Sylvia Purcell. The young woman, an environmental activist, has taken up protest against a large construction project by sitting high up in a tree. Adding to Joan’s problems, her college-student son, Andrew, is supporting Sylvia’s cause and providing food and water. But the protest turns deadly—when Sylvia plunges to her death. It’s soon clear that her fall was no accident. Sleuthing for answers, Joan is caught between the hard-nosed developer and local militant activists. Worse, Andrew resumes Sylvia’s spot in the tree and becomes the police’s prime suspect. Only a dangerous confrontation with a killer can supply the missing pieces—if Joan lives long enough to put them together.”
Her Brother’s Keeper
McKinleyville, CA : Preseverance Press /John Daniel & Company, 2013; ISBN: 9781564745255; 1564745252
Description from the publisher: “A few days before her daughter’s wedding, the last thing Joan Spencer needs is something else to worry about—but here it is, ready or not. Her brother Dave was the family black sheep, but years have passed since they’ve heard from him. Always the nonconformist, he’s arrived way too early. Meanwhile Joan has to keep up with work, in addition to all the planning, even for a simple wedding; the groom’s mother disapproves of everyone and everything; and Joan’s own mother-in-law, whose mind is failing fast, lands smack in the middle of a murder.”
The Beethoven Conspiracy
New York: Macmillan, 1984; ISBN: 0025490001 9780025490000
Description from the publisher: “New York’s finest musicians are being murdered, and all Richard Marritt has to go on is one word scrawled by a beautiful young victim: Beethoven. From New York to Vienna, racing to prevent the murder of Judith Darr, Marritt uncovers a picture of madness, passion, and a magnificent—and deadly—obsession.”
This thriller follows the violist Judith Darr, who is approached with an offer of $10,000 to learn and perform an orchestral work in a major European city, while telling no one about the transaction. After accepting the offer, Judith begins to realize she signed up for more than she bargained for.
New York: Dramatist’s Play Service, 2009; ISBN: 9780822223634 0822223635
Description from the publisher: “After firing one of their founding members due to his erratic behavior, a world-class string quartet takes a chance on a gifted by relatively inexperienced young woman, With only a few days to rehearse a grueling Beethoven masterpiece, the four struggle to prepare their highest-profile performance ever—a televised ceremony at the White House. Their rehearsal room becomes a pressure-cooker as passions rise, personalities clash, and the players are forced to confront the ephemeral nature of their life’s work. Recipient of the Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play, a Steinberg New Play Citation from the American Theatre Critics Association, and nominations for Lucille Lortel and John Gassner Awards for Best New Play.”
The violists in this play include Dorian (the member fired for his erratic behavior) and Grace, the “gifted but relatively inexperienced young woman.”
London: Little, Brown and Company, 1999; ISBN: 0316648132
Description from the publisher: “The Handles have one of those quiet, suburban marriages that has ticked along for decades without anything very momentous happening. William, a distinguished violinist and leader of the Elmtree Quartet, and Grace, a modest watercolorist, enjoy a serene domestic routine where easy silence, an acceptance of each other’s ways, is the norm. The two spend each day in their respective corners of the house—William upstairs practicing, and Grace downstairs working on her latest wildflower illustration—and they even take careful steps to prevent a chance encounter. For what do people who’ve been married that long say when they meet on the stairs? But just as quickly as their routine emerged, it is yanked away by the winds of change.
When the long-serving viola player resigns from William’s quartet, the Elmtree hires Bonnie, a brilliant young player with perfect dimples and an ample bosom. In no time, William is smitten. Meanwhile, Grace’s days have become enlivened by visits from Lucien, a troubled young man who lives down the street with the mother he loathes. Though his presence unnerves her, he provides her days with a bittersweet frisson, and before long Grace is captivated. As William and Grace secretly find their hearts tugged in opposite directions, the once cozy couple moves closer to confrontation. But with the introduction of sudden menace, the story takes a darker turn—until real-life horror explodes and a murderous twist sends their world spinning.”
Trapped in Half Position
[S.l.]: Aventine Press, 2005; 1593303173, 978-1593303174
Genre: Young adult
Description from the publisher: “What does the world have against twelve-year-olds? Anna Browning desperately wants to be thirteen. First, she’s forced to wait a year to audition for the All-City Youth Orchestra, then the language arts teacher disqualifies Anna from the school spelling bee-all because she’s twelve. Add to Anna’s problems: a bully named Mark Pointer, Nibbles the runaway hamster, a gazillion pairs of unpainted tennis shoes and the dreaded half-position on her viola. ‘Half position is a piece of cake,’ said Cristin, Anna’s best friend. But Anna isn’t so sure . . . .”
Written by a violist, music and a junior high school orchestra figures prominently into the plot. In addition to Anna, the main character, her best friend, Crisitn Lang, also plays viola.
Jones, Diana Wynne
Fire and Hemlock
New York: Greenwillow Books, 1985; ISBN: 0688039421; 9780688039424
New York: HarperTrophy, 2002 ; ISBN: 006447352X; 9780064473521
New York: Firebird, 2012; ISBN: 9780142420140; 014242014X
Genre: Fantasy; Juvenile Fiction
Description from the publisher: “At nineteen, Polly has two sets of sometimes overlapping, sometimes conflicting memories, the real-life ones of school days and her parents’ divorce, and the heroic adventure ones that began the day she accidentally gate-crashed a funeral and met the cellist Thomas Lynn.”
The violist in this book is Ann Abraham, a member of the Dumas Quartet. Each of the members of the quartet corresponds with hero in a story that Polly and Thomas Lynn are making up, and Ann corresponds with Tan Audel (whose “power” as a hero is “That you never give up.… But your main gift is the gift of memory. You remember everything—”).
A Bad Day for Mercy
New York: Minotaur Books, 2012; ISBN: 9780312648381
Description from the publisher: “A call from Stella Hardesty’s little sister brings the news that Stella’s step-nephew, Chip, has been threatened with serious bodily harm if he doesn’t settle his unpaid gambling debts. Stella makes the drive to Chip’s home in Wisconsin, only to walk in on a wee-hours dismemberment. Chip and his Russian girlfriend, Natalya, insist the man was left, already dead, on their porch. Suspicious but compelled to help family, Stella tracks down other suspects, including the deceased’s business partner, a purveyor of black-market Botox, and a jilted violist. Matters are complicated by the unexpected arrival of BJ Broderson, who has picked the worst possible time to pursue his amorous intentions toward Stella. Meanwhile, thoughts of Sheriff ‘Goat’ Jones make Stella blush and wonder where, and with whom, she will spend her fifty-first birthday.”
The “jilted violist” in this story is not a former lover, but the deceased’s sister, Alana Parch-Javetz. While she is a major suspect in the story, references to her viola playing are largely confined to Chapter 20 (pages 200–213) and are not a major plot point.
The Tooth Tattoo
New York: Soho Crime, 2013; 978-1616952303
Description from the publisher: “Peter Diamond, head of the Criminal Investigation Division in scenic Bath, England, is investigating the murder of a young woman whose body has been found in the canal, the only clue to her identity a tattoo of a music note on one of her teeth. For Diamond, who wouldn’t know a Stradivarius from a French horn, the investigation is his most demanding ever—not least because budget cuts mean if Diamond’s team don’t distinguish themselves, their jobs will be on the line.
Meanwhile, strange things are happening to concert violist Mel Farran, who finds himself scouted by a very elite classical quartet—one whose previous violist disappeared without a trace. Despite the mystery shrouding the group, the chance to join is too good to pass up, and Mel finds himself in a cushy residency at Bath Spa University with the quartet—and embroiled in the unusually musical murder investigation. As the story unfolds in fugue-like counterpoint, Peter and Mel both learn frightening secrets about fandom and about what it takes to survive in the cutthroat world of professional musicians.”
The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt
New York: Harper & Row, 1988; ISBN: 0060241144 9780060241148, 0064402657 (pbk.)
Genre: Juvenile audience
Description from the publisher: “Minna wishes for many things. She wishes she understood the quote taped above her mother’s typewriter: ‘Fact and fiction are different truths.’ She wishes her mother would stop writing long enough to really listen to her. She wishes her house were peaceful and orderly like her friend Lucas’s. Most of all, she wishes she could find a vibrato on her cello and play Mozart the way he deserves to be played. Minna soon discovers that some things can’t be found-they just have to happen. And as she waits for her vibrato to happen, Minna begins to understand some facts and fictions about herself.”
Written by the Newberry-award-winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall, this book includes violist Lucas Ellerby, a new addition to the chamber group that Minna Pratt performs in.
Martin, Charles Philipp
Neon Panic: A Novel of Suspense
New York: Vantage Point, 2011; ISBN: 9781936467136; 1936467135
Description from the publisher: “The body of a young woman washes up in Hong Kong harbour. To Inspector Herman Lok of the Hong Kong Police Force it appears to be an accidental death—a fisherwoman who drowned. But Lok soon discovers that the woman is linked not just to the triads, the city’s infamous criminal societies, but also to an organization not usually associated with murder and conspiracy—the Hong Kong Symphony Orchestra. Meanwhile Hector Siefert, an American musician living in Hong Kong, learns that his colleague for Leo Stern has disappeared. Enlisting the help of a newspaper reporter with the unlikely name of Twinkie Choi, Hector digs deeper, and finds a secret that put his life in danger: behind the day -to-day life of the Symphony is something more evil than he could ever imagine. Did it kill Leo? And would it kill him next? Neon Panic is the story of a murder investigation set within the clash of cultures that is Hong Kong – a relentlessly-paced thriller which reveals the darkness behind the glittering facade of this cosmopolitan yet mysterious city.”
The violist here is Leo Stern, who disappears suddenly, leaving his viola behind. Chapter 14 also highlights (not very positively) the viola section of the Hong Kong Symphony Orchestra when the conductor requires individual members of the section to play an awkward passage from a new composition.
The Secret Agent
New York: Bantam Books, 2002; ISBN: 0553109138; 9780553109139
Description from the publisher: “In her acclaimed debut, The Cutout, former CIA analyst Francine Mathews defined a world of intrigue where only the savvy survive. Now, in The Secret Agent, Mathews propels us deep into the baffling history of a maverick American’s glittering life and his sudden, cataclysmic disappearance…. Here is the masterful story of secret agents of many kinds–in a realm where truth is the most dangerous secret of all.
Who was Jack Roderick?
Trained by the OSS, Jack Roderick plummeted into Bangkok one rainy morning in 1945 and never left. Silk King, pirate, ruthless collector of beautiful objects–especially women–Roderick was feared and respected as a foreign spy, a business kingpin, and a trader in men’s souls. And then, at the height of the Vietnam War, caught in a killing web of treachery and revenge that would determine the fate of his only son, Rory, Jack Roderick walked into the jungle…and vanished from the face of the earth.
Four decades later, can the mystery be solved?
International fund manager Stefani Fogg is recruited by a man whose job it is to know the unknowable. Wealthy beyond corruption, impervious to romance, and equipped with a mind that can crack any enigma, Stefani signs up for the adventure of a lifetime: playing Secret Agent to Max Roderick, grandson of Bangkok’s long-vanished Legendary American. A world-class skier tangled in a sordid Thai murder investigation, Max is consumed with the riddle of Jack Roderick’s disappearance–and with his own father’s death in the jungles of Vietnam.
Seduced by Max’s charm and intrigued by his family history, Stefani ignores the warning signs and follows her heart. But when Max’s quarrel with the Thai police turns deadly and a killer strikes, she knows she must return to the place where it all began, to unravel the lies, penetrate a deadly conspiracy, and expose a killing truth. She flees Max’s France for Bangkok’s khlongs—into the ruins of the Silk King’s dark past and the mesmerizing shadow of the Roderick family curse. What she finds, in Jack Roderick’s story and in the fate of his fighter-pilot son, is an American dream that crashed and burned in the rice paddies of Vietnam and a chilling legacy that haunts our own to this day.
Propelling us masterfully through half a century, from Manhattan to the Alps to the colorful and treacherous heart of Bangkok, and based on the life of American expatriate Jim Thompson, The Secret Agent is at once a murder mystery, a touching love story, and a lavishly atmospheric journey through the exotic landscape of love and history—an historical thriller of the first rank.”
The violist here is Max Roderick, who “loved his viola with the passion he had long since lost for skis, in part because the viola had always denied him mastery.”
Intermezzo for Solo Viola
Seattle, WA: Zeeland, 2008; ISBN: 0980151007; 9780980151008
Description from the publisher: “Petra Fresco, a young college graduate, haunted by memories of family lost in the Holocaust and struggling to come to terms with her own identity, arrives in Manhattan during the 1950s. While uncovering the details of her family’s flight from Holland during WWII and her grandfather’s ultimate sacrifice, she falls in love with a student from India, who, like herself, is also a refugee. In this tender coming of age story, racial and cultural divides are bravely crossed in an epic battle between human resilience and the inevitability of one’s own heritage.”
Despite the viola-themed title, this book barely references the viola, though Petra, the main character mentions during high school that she “struggled to learn the rudiments of the viola.” Instead, the book is modeled after a five-part Intermezzo (Opening Theme–Andante–Allegro–Teneramente–Reprise), with Petra presumably representing the solo viola.
Playing from Memory
Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado, 1999; ISBN: 0870815261; 9780870815263
New York : Simon and Schuster, 1981; ISBN: 0671252526; 9780671252526
Description from the publisher: “Playing from Memory is a deeply moving, compassionate novel about the power of marriage to survive under stress, a love story that tells of a musician’s courageous battle against a degenerative illness and his wife’s struggle to face the end of their life together. Ben Seidler, an intense, passionately committed violist, is at the height of his career as a member of the Casa Bella Quartet, one of the foremost string quartets in the nation. His gifts as a concert artist had always been intuitive, but love did not come so easily. It took determination to win the hand of his wife, Dory, who was reluctant to set aside her ambitions of becoming an artist. Their marriage is at once complex and ordinary, balancing the rigors of long rehearsal sessions against the daily round of family life with their two sons. Then suddenly the rhythm of their lives is shattered when Ben falls victim to multiple sclerosis. Stubbornly independent,
Ben refuses to rely on others until necessity forces him to see that there are things beyond his control. Through a new closeness with his aging father, his older son, and, most importantly, Dory, he learns to accept help and to appreciate human frailty and affection. As Ben’s health declines, Dory is forced to resume her career and compete in a world dominated by men, and to re-examine her feelings and commitment to her husband. As their lives change, so does their marriage, and Ben and Dory forge a new kind of love, a fierce love that sustains them through everything.”
Modesitt, Jr., L. E.
The Soprano Sorceress: The First Book of the Spellsong Cycle
New York: Tor, 1997; ISBN: 0312860226; 9780312860226
Description from the Publisher: “When Anna Marshall is transported from her boring and frustrating life in Ames, Iowa, to the very different world of Erde, she’s angry and confused, but soon finds out that for the first time in her life she’s uniquely powerful. In Iowa Anna was a music instructor and small-time opera singer, but on Erde her musical ability makes her a big-time sorceress—potentially. First she must figure out how to use her ability before the big-time rulers who’ve notices her arrival kill her just because she’s an unpredictable new power. . . . Those rulers may wish they hadn’t waited as long as they did.”
The violist in this book is Daffyd, who summons Anna to Erde and serves as her bandleader.
de Moor, Margriet
The Kreutzer Sonata
New York: Arcade Pub., 2005; ISBN: 1559707445; 9781559707442
From Publisher’s Weekly: “Dutch novelist de Moor (Duke of Egypt) traces narrative arabesques around the terrible romantic jealousy suffered by a blind music critic in this spare, delicate novel. In a series of chance encounters at European airports over the years, the musicologist narrator meets the famous blind patrician music critic, Marius van Vlooten, and extracts his history of tortured love. The first encounter elicits the desperate tale of unrequited love that drove Marius, as a student years before, to shoot himself in the head, thus blinding himself. The acquaintance between the two travelers continues briefly, allowing the narrator to introduce Marius to lovely Suzanna Flier, first violinist of the Schulhoff Quartet, who becomes Marius’s wife. Ten years later, on the way to the Salzburg Festival, the narrator learns that Suzanna has left Marius because he tried to kill her, his jealousy roused by her love (he claims) for the violist in her quartet. Marius’s obsession with Janácek’s Kreutzer sonata provides the novel’s leitmotif; according to the critic, ‘wayward modernist’ Janácek ‘put things in his music that were meant not only for the listening ear but also for the inner eye.’ De Moor’s slender, suspenseful narrative frequently shifts settings and moods, but Marius’s idée fixe burns with a constant fire. Though de Moor sometimes stokes the blaze too high, this is an involving, passionate tale.”
In addition to Emile Bronckhorst (the violist in the Schulhoff Quartet), Eugene Lehner, the real-life violist of the Kolisch Quartet, appears as the subject of an interview by the narrator of this story.
Unstrung: A Blanchard House Mystery
[S.l.]: Iuniverse Inc, 2012 ; ISBN: 1475911122 9781475911121; 1475911130 9781475911138
Description from the publisher: “Althea Stewart has had it with Holly-wood. Fed up with the dog-eat-dog life of a classical musician, her alcoholic ex-husband, and the shallow dating pool known as Los Angeles, Althea heads north to Washington State with nothing more than her violin, viola, and a quirky but determined attitude. Althea soon convinces her best friend and colleague, cellist Grace Sullivan, to join her in opening a private music school in a rambling historic property in Kirkland, Washington. Anxious to uphold their outstanding reputations as hostess-es with the most, Althea and Grace are determined to pull of their first holiday party in grand style. But instead, they unwittingly set the stage for the gruesome murder of a once-powerful Hollywood studio concertmaster. As a police investigation unfolds and one murder leads to another, Althea and Grace soon realize that their hopes for a quiet life in the Pacific Northwest have been dashed. In this mystery tale filled with a symphony of blackmail, cold-blooded murder, and the possibility of love, Althea and a group of eclectic characters must tune into their detective instincts in order to find a killer-before another life is sacrificed.”
Also includes a minor character, Amy Lindal, a violist who is auditioning for the Seattle Symphony.
Oppenheim, Shulamith Levey
A Trio for Grandpapa
New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1974 ; ISBN: 0690001266; 9780690001266;
Genre: Juvenile audience
Description from the publisher: “While exploring an old castle, three Austrian children find a violin, viola, and cello and take them home to their grandfather who explains the origins of the instruments.”
Danilov the Violist
New York: W. Morrow, 1987; ISBN: 068804655X; 9780688046552
Genre: Science Fiction/Mysticism
Original in Russian. Story about a half-demon, half-human musician, Danilov, and his travails through life and love.
Final Account (Book 7 in the Inspector Banks series)
Dry Bones that dream (Published in the UK under this title)
New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 1994; ISBN: 0425149358; 9780425149355
New York: Avon Books, 2004; ISBN: 0060502169; 9780060502164 (pbk.)
Description from the publisher (Avon Books): “There’s more than blood and bone beneath the skin . . . The victim, a nondescript ‘numbers cruncher,’ died horribly just yards away from his terrified wife and daughter, murdered by men who clearly enjoyed their work. The crime scene is one that could chill the blood of even the most seasoned police officer. But the strange revelations about an ordinary accountant’s extraordinary secret life are what truly set Chief Inspector Alan Banks off —as lies breed further deceptions and blood begets blood, unleashing a policeman’s dark passions . . . and a violent rage that, when freed, might be impossible to control.”
The violist in this book is Pamela Jeffreys, who performs with the English Northern Philharmonia. Jeffreys was intimate with the victim under an assumed name he was using and becomes entangled in the circumstances surrounding his death.
Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2004; ISBN: 1741143527; 9781741143522
Description from the publisher: “Shocking, tender, and grotesque, this darkly humorous novel captures the resilience and confusion of growing up. The Houdinis have grand plans for their family when they move to a dilapidated and isolated farm in the heart of the Australian bush. The mother, famous violist husband, and seven children plan on becoming self-sufficient, allowing creativity to rule and forming the perfect environment to raise a family of musicians, artists, and poets. But as problems arise from both outside and within the house, Ursula Houdini watches her brothers and sisters thrive and then wither under a mixture of love, neglect, and cruelty. In this affectionate and compelling story, Ursula must ultimately decide what she is willing to sacrifice to make her own place in the world”
In addition to the father, each of the children “all played violin, viola, or cello.” Includes a short “fairytale” on page 33–34:
The Princess and the Viola Player
Once, long long ago in a time long gone before, there was a musician, a viola player. He could play the sun from behind the clouds, the snowflakes into a dance, the night into day. His viola sang a song that only people can understand; he made them happy that they were sad. He was the most famous a viola player can be and everyone in all the countries wanted him to play to them so they could be happy that they were human beings, not dogs or goats or horses. They gave him money, and flowers and beautiful instruments, and they recorded his playing so they could take a little bit home with them to have with dinner. But the viola player was so lonely that he could not be happy that he was so sad, no matter how beautifully he played.
Then one day he met a dark and lovely princess with a mouth like a sword, and he ran away with her to live in secret. The people were left to their sadness and their records.
He had escaped.
The Persistent Image
New York: Dial Press, 1955
From Wikipedia: “The Persistent Image is a novel by the American writer Gladys Schmitt (1909–1972) set in a fictional version of 1950s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A romance, John Reiber and Helen Cameron overcome the obstacles that stand between them: his resentment of her higher class, his inability to forgive her for her former marriage, and his hatred of the divorced husband. Reiber’s shame lessens gradually over his own family’s lower middle class pretensions, and he confronts reality.”
Now the owner of a record store, John Reiber is a former orchestral violist who met Helen while playing viola in a string quartet at her home.
An Equal Music
1999, New York: Broadway Books; ISBN: 0767902912; 9780767902915
2000, New York: Vintage International; ISBN: 037570924X; 9780375709241
Description from the publisher: “A second-time-around romance between Michael, a violinist and Julia, a pianist. He runs into her on a London bus and learns she is married to a banker and has a son. They resume their love, but drama lies ahead as Julia is going deaf.”
This book centers on the London-based Maggiore String Quartet, for whom Michael Holme is the second violinist. Two compositions pivotal to the plot devote ample space to the viola: Beethoven’s Opus 104 Viola Quintet and Bach’s The Art of Fugue. For the Bach, the quartet has received an offer to record the work, and their desire to perform it in Bach’s original key requires Michael to play viola instead of second violin. Meanwhile, the register for the third part requires violist Helen to search for a suitable viola that she can tune down a fourth.
The Rosendorf Quartet
1991 (c.1987), New York: Grove Weidenfeld; ISBN: 080211234X : 9780802112347
From Library Journal: “This delicately nuanced novel, winner of Israel’s Bialik Prize, balances the voices of the four German-Jewish refugees who are members of a string quartet formed just before the onset of World War II in Palestine. Exiled from their homes, the musicians attempt to make a life in music outside history. Yet history continually intrudes. Whether I’’s the cellist’s inadvertent involvement with a terrorist organization or the violist’s relentless sexual adventures, the tension between art and life creates unsurpassed music far greater than the individual talents of the ensemble. Shaham’s skillful blending of the four voices, as well as the ironic commentary of the quartet’s friend, an exiled German author, creates a finely tuned meditation on art, exile, and human engagement.”
Includes an entire section devoted to the violist of the quartet, Eva Staubenfeld.
The Novel in the Viola
London: Sceptre, 2011; ISBN: 9780340995693; 0340995696 034099567X; 9780340995679
The daughter of an acclaimed soprano—and one-time viola-player—Elise Landau is forced to flee Austria during World War II, settling in the fictitious village of Tyneford, England, where she works as a housemaid. Her father entrusted her with a viola in which he had steamed off the top and placed a copy of his latest novel. Elise’s adventures and loves are chronicled as she comes to grips with her evolving position and identity in a foreign country. The book includes sheet music for Jeff Rona’s Waltz from The Novel in the Viola (published as a plot point in the book under the pseudonym of Concerto in D Minor by Jan Tibor).
London: Black Lace, ; ISBN: 0352336293 9780352336293 (Reprinted: London : Cheek, ;
ISBN: 0352339586 (pbk.) 9780352339584 (pbk.); 252 pages)
Genre: Erotic fiction
Description from the publisher: “Kate is a vibrant, sensual creature, brimming with needs. Her husband Daniel is a cheating rat, driving her crazy with his infidelities. The one thing she can rely on is her music, and she plays the viola like a wild goddess. When the orchestra she is a part of embarks on a tour of Europe—joined by a dominatrix diva and a bass singer whose voice is so low he is known as the human vibrator—Katie is soon experiencing life to its hedonistic limits. While she is carefully recording each passionate encounter in her journal, another member of the orchestra is writing down his. Intrigue begins when the two books are inadvertently switched. If the truth gets out, they’ll never play a concerto in their home town again.”
Between Each Breath
London: Jonathan Cape, 2007; ISBN: 9780224074988; 0224074989
London: Vintage, 2008; ISBN: 9780099479925; 0099479923
Description from the publisher: “Once ‘England’s most promising young composer’—now living comfortably in Hampstead with his wife Milly, an heiress—Jack Middleton is no longer so young, nor has he fulfilled his remarkable promise. When he visits Estonia for a three-week search for inspiration, he falls for a young waitress called Kaja, deeply bound up in the suffering of her country and the joy and danger of its new freedom. Still childless six years later, Jack and Milly’s marriage shows the strain, but they battle on better than most—until the past returns with a vengeance. The crisis takes place over a few weeks in the aftermath of the London bombings, as a hot, despondent summer drags on unnaturally into the autumn.”
There are two significant violists in this book: The first is Jack’s best friend, Howard Davenport, who plays in the Dumka Quartet. The second is Kaja’s son Jaan, a five-year old viola prodigy, who may or may not be Jack’s son. A third violist—one of Howard’s viola students, Ffiona—also makes a couple of brief appearances.
Author of two books featuring detective Zephyr Zuckerman; both include her friend Mercedes Kim, who is “third chair violist in the New York Philharmonic.”
Super in the City
New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2009; ISBN: 9780385342698; 0385342691
Description from the publisher: “Zephyr has often fantasized about committing acts of bravery that will make front-page news. She may get her big break—though it may require plunging a few toilets. Now the mob thinks she’s in the FBI, and the FBI thinks she’s in the mob—and there’s this cute, surly exterminator . . .”
Mercedes’s career as a violist in the New York Philharmonic proves instrumental in a budding relationship with actor Dover Carter.
Hotel No Tell:
New York: Bantam Books Trade Paperbacks, 2011; ISBN: 9780385342704; 0385342705
Description from the publisher: “The ever resourceful detective Zephyr Zuckerman is now armed and undercover in a Greenwich Village hotel where mysteries—from garbage-grabbing guests to the reservation system—lurk around every corner.”
Valley Falls, NY: Bold Strokes Books, 2011 ; ISBN: 9781602822375 1602822379
Description from the publisher: “Andrea Taylor craves peace in her life, no matter what the personal sacrifice. She arranges her career as a violist, her relationships with family and friends, and even her love life so she can avoid strife at all costs. Everything is going according to plan until she meets Brooke Stanton the night before Brooke’s wedding rehearsal and her ordered existence falls apart. When Brooke hires a string quartet to play at her rehearsal dinner, she doesn’t expect to meet a woman who threatens the security of her already predetermined future. Suddenly she has doubts about the conventional path she has chosen and desires she can no longer ignore. In an eclectic neighborhood in Seattle, Washington, these two women face a life-altering decision – will they fight the attraction that threatens their carefully structured lives or take a chance on finding the harmony only love creates.”
Author of two books comprising the destiny suite.
The Voice of Manush
Fredonia, NY: White Pine Press, 1996; ISBN: 1877727601 9781877727603
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
Description from the publisher: “Vol. 1, The Voice of Manush, dramatizes the triumph of music over death. It explores the magic of music through Marko Manava’s quest for a mythic instrument, The Destiny.”
The introduction provides background for the story: Manush was the first human (whose descendants are the manava, or Gypsies), and he crafted an instrument eventually stolen by Ravana, a demon with twenty hands. Ravana was unable to play the instrument, and he destroyed it, breaking it into three parts. From these parts, the gadje (a different race of humans from the manava) constructed the violin, viola, and cello.
The story then follows Marko Manava, a Gypsy healer, musician, and luthier. Marko embarks on a quest to locate “The Destiny,” or “The Voice of Manush,” Stradivarius’s last “viola.” Stradivarius created “The Destiny” at the request of the Gypsy Manava Mihaly, and it captures the essence of Manush’s original instrument with three voices. (“It looks like a viola, and when you play in the middle range, it sounds like one. When you play above that, you hear a violin. In the lower register, it sounds like a cello.”) Along the way, we learn of the life, loves, and identities of the narrator in this folkloric saga.
Brookline, MA: Lyric Press; ISBN: 1877800066; 9781877800061
Description from the publisher: “Vol. 2, The Craftsmen,” takes us into the lives of violin makers, performers, and Gypsies. In 19th-century Paris, The Destiny haunts Minugia, a descendent of Stradivari, and steals Paganini.”
This story follows the life of the luthier Minugia, who is a descendent of not only Stradivari, but also of Carlo Bergonzi and Alessandro Rolla and the godson of Paganini. Minugia is apprenticed to Vuillaume in Paris and meets Luigi Tarisio. In this story, Tarisio was rescued by a band of Gypsies including Manavo Rigo, the son of Manava Mihaly, who commissioned “The Destiny.”
It is Tarisio who persuades the gypsies to loan “The Destiny” to Paganini, and Paganini plays the instrument for Berlioz, requesting him to compose a work for the instrument. “The Destiny” is eventually stolen back from Paganini by the Gypsies, and Minugia explains the real story behind Paganini’s rejection of Harold in Italy:
The real reason was that Paganini had commissioned Berlioz to write a piece for The Destiny, and backed out when it was stolen. Berlioz never mentioned The Destiny in his Memoirs; who would believe it? He found it easier to exploit the folklore of Paganini.
Berlioz rewrote it for the viola, expecting Paganini to play it on the Corsby Stradivari he bought in London. “Even though it’s now in the range of an ordinary viola, my ear still calls for The Destiny,” he said. Paganini never played a viola in public again.
The Violin Case Case
New York: Dutton, 1978; ISBN: 0525419926 9780525419921
Genre: Young adult/Mystery/Thriller
Follows the adventures of twelve-year-old violinist Sebastian “Bax” Barlow during the summer he decides to audition for the Los Arboles Symphony Orchestra. He has been entrusted with a mysterious violin by his Aunt Daphne that everyone is eager to get their hands on. Bax eventually unravels the mystery of the violin with the help of Susan Dodd, a schoolmate and violist in the Symphony.
[S.l.]: Untreed Reads, 2012; electronic book (http://store.untreedreads.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=9&products_id=331)
Description from the publisher: “Xylophone Fragments is a fast-paced literary mystery that inhabits the world of classical music. A nameless detective who specializes in musical matters chases around the world, investigating why all traces of a deservedly neglected Baroque composer are disappearing right under the noses of musicians and musicologists. The intrigue enmeshes a beautiful concert pianist, a washed up Vermont composer, an aging artists’ agent and his jaded associate, an owlish musicologist, and a host of other memorable characters. This uncommonly thoughtful work touches on the realities of concert life, the quandaries facing those who would compose and perform concert music, and some of the ineffable mysteries that attend the creation of great music. Told with great wit and a sometimes cynical humor, Xylophone Fragments will appeal both to those who like to sink their teeth into a puzzle that doesn’t necessarily revolve around a dead body, those who like their mysteries to deal with more than “who?” and “why?”—and those who know and love classical music and the people who compose and perform it.”
The violist in this book is Megalo Artemidorus, who was sent to Rome to review a manuscript by Luigi Antonio Finarini (the deservedly neglected Baroque composer), only to have all traces of it disappear after a holiday. Artemidorus primarily appears in Chapter 17, though he makes return appearances later in the book, providing a pivotal bit of information to a young composer.