The Iron Tongue of Midnight
Beverle Graves Myers
Poisoned Pen, Mar 2008, $24.95
In 1740, German composer Karl Johann Weber invites renowned singer Tito Amato to play the lead in a new opera he is producing. Tito is euphoric although his brother in law Gussie Rumbolt points out the role of Tamerlano the lusty Mongol conqueror seems off note for a castrato, but Tito insists the exorbitant fee will cover any shortcomings.
Gussie, who also has been hired to paint scenes, accompanies Tito to the isolated Venetian Villa Dolfini where Weber is leading rehearsals in stark secrecy. That night as Gussie and Tito share a room in the villa, soprano Carmela Costa screams. The bloodcurdling screech wakes everyone up. Lying at her ankle is a corpse apparently beaten to death with a nearby clock pendulum. No one can identify the victim and a check of his pockets does not help as they are totally empty. They send for the High Constable Captain Forti, but he is away. As other midnight killings follow, Tito investigates not knowing when he made that decision his inquiries will turn introspectively personal.
The latest Baroque Mystery (see INTERRUPTED ARIA, PAINTED VEIL, and CRUEL MUSIC) is an excellent historical whodunit that uses an eighteenth century villa to serve as a sort of locked room. Tito is terrific as an amateur sleuth struggling with a case in which motive seems impossible to find since the first deceased is unknown. Besides an entertaining mystery, the story line brings to life the musical side of Venice and to a lesser degree Constantinople through the writings of Tito’s brother Alessandro. Readers will sing the praise of Beverle Graves Myers who makes a night at the opera fun.