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Cruel Music : The Third Baroque Mystery
Tito Amato returns from an operatic tour expecting to relax with his family. Instead he finds his merchant brother Alessandro imprisoned on a trumped-up smuggling charge, a capital crime in 1740 Venice. The senator who controls Alessandro's fate is determined to have a Venetian as the next pope. He forces Tito to Rome to sing at the villa of a powerful, music-loving cardinal who will control the coming papal election.
Spying as he serenades Cardinal Fabiani and his guests, Tito peers into the dark mirror of Roman politics. Pope Clement XII is sinking fast, and two candidates emerge as leading contenders for St. Peter's throne. Will Fabiani support the highborn Venetian whose secret passion is tinkering with electrical experiments? Or the humble cardinal with the gift of healing and a mysterious past?
The discovery of a beautiful corpse in Fabiani's garden complicates Tito's mission. Fabiani believes that a member of his household killed the young maid in a fit of madness, but Tito follows clues that indicate a more complex motive. With Englishman Gussie Rumbolt and saucy manservant Benito, Tito scours Rome for the truth. From the heights of the Janiculum Hill to the muddy waters of the Tiber, from a cozy Trastevere cookshop to the chilly corridors of the Quirinal Palace, the trio wrestles with events that could change the course of history. Can Tito stop the ungodly killer before Pope Clement takes his last breath? Or will Alessandro face the scaffold?
Myers's third mystery to feature soprano Tito Amato, a renowned castrato in 18th-century Italy, gets off to a slow start, but the pace soon picks up. Tito finds himself in Rome, singing in the house of Cardinal Lorenzo Fabiani. Chez Fabiani is abuzz with papal politics--Pope Clement XII's on his deathbed, and the two men most likely to replace him need Fabiani's support if they are to prevail. When Fabiani's mother's maid turns up strangled in Fabiani's garden, Fabiani covers up the crime, but Tito, worried he'll be falsely implicated should the corpse come to light, decides to get to the bottom of things. His investigation leads him into fascinating Roman subcultures--communities of goddess worshipers, who practice ancient paganism right under the church's nose, and church leaders who are more interested in natural science than theology. Myers (Interrupted Aria) litters the book with coy references to the castrato's surprising sex life, but leaves the details to the reader's imagination. (Sept.)
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Poisoned Pen Press
March 14, 2008
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