For the 7th book in her Silver Rush series, author Ann Parker takes us to San Francisco in 1881 with her mystery novel Mortal Music. This is a series that follows the exploits of Inez Stannert who we first met in Leadville Colorado, who is now residing in San Francisco and is the owner of a music store and oriental emporium.
The story begins one evening a few days before Christmas when inez and her young ward attend a performance at the San Francisco Grand Opera. That night the opera features the return of the San Francisco Songbird, Theia Carrington Drake. It is from a chance meeting after the performance that Ann Parker spins this tale of mystery and suspense. As Theia chats with the theater manager Inez, who is an accomplished pianist, plays a few notes on the piano and before you know it Mrs. Drake has fired her accompanist and has procured the services of Inez as he replacement accompanist for the remainder of her performances in San Francisco. Theia had begun her career in San Francisco before moving on and eventually making a worldwide reputation due to her lovely voice, and she now returns to the town of her beginning along with her wealthy husband, Graham Drake, who had just purchased a newspaper in the city and has convinced Theia to retire at the end of the year.
Theia goes nowhere without her pet bird Aria and the next morning much to Theia’s horror Aria has been killed and her beautiful gown ripped to shreds. Theia is a prima donna and is devastated by these acts, and thus begins the search for the bird killer and gown ripper. Theia is surrounded by a host of characters who might have evil intent so Mr. Drake hires the hotel detective to find the perpetrator. Meanwhile Inez find out what a difficult employer Theia Carrington Drake can be as the list of potential suspects appears vast. From the recently fired piano accompanist, Mr. Rubio, to Theia’s understudy and soon to be a rising star of her own, Julie Green, Theia’s entourage is all under suspicion. But there are more as it appears that a night porter may have been the last person to have seen the bird alive and who has no alibi as to his actions that night. There is also a dressmaker, a personal maid, a valet, past lovers and everyone we meet has a personal vendetta against the couple. Just as it appears that the investigation of the dead bird and shredded gown is going nowhere, we now have a murder! Lo and behold Inez, who prides herself on her detective skills, is now made a partner in the investigation.
Mortal Music does a great job of giving us the feel of San Francisco in 1881, as glamorous locations border threatening streets, where opium dens and the Barbary Coast exist within a few blocks of the most opulent locations in town. The other thing that the author does quite well is to hide the ending, and only at the last minute are the final clues discovered that solve the crimes. This is not a standalone read, however I don’t think you need to read the prior six books in the series to get the feel and flavor of Mortal Music. The author does a good job with her characters and if there’s anything we need to know about Inez she fills us in quickly and does not drag over past history. I have read three books in this series and I have seen great growth in the author and if you are looking for a different type of detective story, set in a unique location and time, with a much different cast of characters than you were used to, then I think this is a book you will enjoy. As a music lover I enjoy books and novels based around music, and the San Francisco Songbird, Theia Carrington Drake and her husband Graham are a volatile couple and a great duo upon which to base this book.