Sunday, January 30, 2011

Orchestrated Death

It's been some time since Miss Lemon has picked up a whodunit so absorbing that she could not put it down again until she'd gotten to the end.

That was exactly the case with Orchestrated Death (1991), by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, which features the debut of Inspector Bill Slider and his sergeant, Jim Atherton.

Jim and Bill. The names don't promise much in the way of originality or wit, do they? Don't be fooled. This mystery crackles with snappy one-liners and wry observations about everything from marriage --  the reasons for 'which ranged from the insufficient to the ludicrous' -- to hair colour. Slider's son Matthew makes friends with 'a boy called Sibod, with such flamingly red hair that it looked like a deliberate insult.' 

Her faithful readers must know by now that Miss Lemon has absolutely nothing against red hair. Nor shall her readers take amiss any of clever banter that's batted back and forth between Slider and Atherton, the pair of which bring to mind Inspector Barnaby and Sergeant Troy in the British mysteries by Caroline Graham.

The premise of Orchestrated Death is smart and simple: the body of a young woman is found naked in a tenement in West London, and the only thing to identify her is the mark on her neck made by the chin-rest of her violin. And a rare and expensive violin it turns out to be.

Though largely without family or means, it seems the murdered woman, a second-chair player from the Birmingham Orchestra, owned a Stradivarius.

As Slider and Atherton try to reckon how their victim came by a fiddle worth well-nigh £1 million, the suspects, the inconsistencies -- and the bodies -- begin to pile up. But what Miss Lemon found most compelling is that along the way, Slider, sleepwalking through life married to a woman he no longer understands, is suddenly awaken by a chance encounter with a witness. The relationship that develops is at once as poignant as it is believable; and it adds just as much tension to the narrative as the murders do.

Miss Lemon promises that should you pick up Orchestrated Death, you'll not be disappointed. Now, she must run. She has a date for the symphony. 


  1. Sounds great. I'll look for it.

  2. I love this book. I'm so glad, Miss Lemon, that you've discovered this series. It is one of my very favorites! I've read every book in the Bill Slider series and can't recommend them enough. It's always well, what happens next when you get the end. :)

  3. I read this years ago and just loved it, but didn't read on in the series. I really should. I have thought of this book often.

  4. This is one of my favourite series. The wit & humour make it stand out for me although the mysteries are well-plotted & I read them so quickly that I never work out whodunnit. Love the name of your blog by the way! Yvette, who has commented above, led me to you as I've just reviewed the latest Bill Slider, Body Line.

  5. Miss Lemon thanks you all for seconding her recommendation! It's such fun to make a discovery of another great mystery writer, isn't it?