Praise for Death and Transfiguration
Booklist Starred Review
The title, from Richard Strauss’ tone poem for orchestra, brilliantly fits Elias’ latest mystery, in which the musician Daniel Jacobus confronts the wreckage of his own life as well as that of a talented young violinist. Jacobus has been sidelined from his career as a violinist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for decades, ever since he was stricken with sudden blindness on the very day he won the concertmaster position. He is unrelentingly and refreshingly acerbic, living in a dust-laden house in the Berkshires, only occasionally giving lessons to truly gifted violinists, to whom he imparts hard-won knowledge about the treacheries endemic to the professional music world. Author Elias, a violinist himself, is the perfect guide through this underworld: the scenes of auditions and rehearsals have a tension only someone in the know could bring to them, and his criticism of how orchestras transform “thoroughbred” musicians into “packhorses” rings with authenticity. The latest Jacobus mystery centers on a brilliant young woman who slits her wrists, formally ending her career, after a series of humiliating encounters with a sociopathic conductor. This woman had sought Jacobus’ help with a harassment suit, asking him to investigate the conductor’s background. Jacobus’ refusal, and his subsequent guilt over the woman’s self-inflicted injury, propels him into an exploration of the conductor’s past. Brilliant and captivating on every level.
Publishers Weekly Starred Review
Near the start of Elias’s finely tuned, wickedly funny fourth mystery featuring crotchety blind violinist Daniel Jacobus (after 2011’s Death and the Maiden), 41-year-old violinist Sherry O’Brien asks for his help with her audition for concertmaster of the prestigious Harmonium Orchestra. Jacobus, cantankerous as usual, brushes her off. When Sherry kills herself after confronting the orchestra’s notoriously egotistical and caustic director, Vaclav Herza, who emigrated from Czechoslovakia 40 years earlier, Jacobus enlists the aid of his sighted friends to probe into Herza’s past, long rumored to be unsavory. Memorable and shocking encounters in Prague and Tokyo alternate with pungent scenes of rancorous contract negotiations, nail-biting auditions, and the clash of wills between conductor and players, all on the eve of the orchestra’s inauguration of their new concert hall built on landfill off the southern tip of Manhattan. There’s just one word for this book: bravo!
The Mystery Gazette
The fourth Daniel Jacobus amateur sleuth (see Death and the Maiden, The Devil's Trill and Danse Macabre) is an entertaining mystery as the cantankerous protagonist believes he has one more major addition to his redemption list. Humorous, readers obtain a look behind the scenes at a major orchestra. Still, it is virtuoso Jacobus who makes this a fun tale as the acrimonious violinist probes Herza’s history.