The titles of the first four novels in the Daniel Jacobus mystery series were the names of classical music compositions dealing with death: “Devil’s Trill,” “Danse Macabre,” “Death and the Maiden,” and “Death and Transfiguration.” Books five and six are the first two instalment of a second “quartet.” The inspiration for these books, however, have come from a different source: The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi, highly evocative concertos for violin and string orchestra that he composed from sonnets of his own authorship. The Four Seasons are perhaps the most beloved collection of concertos in the entire Baroque literature.
My stories are based upon these concertos in several ways. First of all, they take place in the season depicted in the concertos: “Playing with Fire” in Winter, and “Spring Break” in Spring. They also draw upon the text of the sonnets, sometimes reverently, other times ironically. Finally, the music itself becomes part and parcel of the plot. In “Spring Break,” for example, a student’s error-filled performance at a master class is what leads Daniel Jacobus — the blind, curmudgeonly, violin pedagogue and super sleuth — to believe that something is more amiss than the student’s skill.
Each book in this second “quartet” of stories centres around a venue very specific to the music profession and real life issues encountered in them. In “Playing with Fire” it was a violin shop and the forgery of violins and their authentication. In “Spring Break” the setting is a music conservatory with an ingrained culture of sexual harassment. Vivaldi may write, “Stirred by the festive tones of rustic pipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneath the verdant canopy of spring,” but those feelings aren’t necessarily unanimous.
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Praise for Spring Break:
“Readers will enjoy spending time in the company of the curmudgeonly Jacobus, and many will welcome the absence of fisticuffs, car chases, and Glocks. Jacobus’s blindness adds an interesting angle, with suspects and witnesses classified and identified by the cadence and timbre of their voices.”