February 23, 2004

Death on the High C's, by Robert Barnard

This one's much better than the last Barnard I read, Death of an Old Goat, better in every way. The plot is better, the characters are better, the mystery is better, and it doesn't drip with scorn. It's true, the most obnoxious character in the book is Australian, but you get the sense that she'd have been just as annoying no matter what her origin.

It involves a young but promising opera company in the north of England. They are just beginning their second season with a staging of Rigoletto--and Barnard clearly knows and loves Rigoletto just as much as he (apparently) dislikes Australia. There are lots of nice twists and turns, and it ends up quite satisfactorily.

One of the interesting things about Barnard's work is that he doesn't have a consistent tone. Sometimes he plays for laughs; sometimes he's more serious; and in this one, it almost seems like he's trying to play Ngaio Marsh. If so, he doesn't quite make it...but the results are pleasingly Marsh-like nevertheless.

Posted by Will Duquette at February 23, 2004 07:46 PM