In Newcastle upon Tyne in the 1730s, life is not easy for an impoverished musician. For Charles Patterson, violinist, harpsichord player, composer and would-be church organist, it’s about to get a whole lot harder. First he is accused of stealing a valuable book. Then a cherished violin belonging to his flamboyant rival, Henri le Sac, disappears, rapidly followed by le Sac himself. And when the young apprentice he inherited from his rival is gruesomely murdered, Patterson starts to feel out of his depth. Strange goings-on at the home of capricious Lady Anne leave him in fear for his health and sanity, and the lady’s cousin, Esther Jerdoun, seems to be trying to warn him about something. The mystery deepens as the death toll mounts and it becomes clear that things are not quite as they appear …
While some authors could pull off delaying their mystery s first murder two-thirds of the way into the story, English musicologist Southey isn t up to that challenge in her first novel, an offbeat whodunit set in 18th-century Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Southey s not fully sympathetic hero, Charles Patterson, who s a versatile musician, struggles to make ends meet, while his rival, Henri Le Sac, enjoys professional prominence. Patterson s faith in his sanity totters when he thinks he sees spirits, and the strain on his system is compounded when local authorities accuse him of stealing a rare book and a violin and murdering the apprentice he inherited from Le Sac. Patterson turns amateur sleuth to clear his name. While an unexpected supernatural element distracts from the action more than it supports it, Southey s sure-handed use of period detail leaves hope she ll do better in her next historical.