Alexia Gordon, Murder
in G Major
Copyright © 2016 Alexia Gordon
I must admit to having a bias against stories that depend heavily on paranormal occurrences. Especially if the paranormal part is not treated tongue-in-cheek, But the paranormal elements here are pretty central to the development of the story. So that’s my warning about my reaction.
Gethsemane Brown, a world-class concert violinist, has arrived Ireland without her luggage (but with her violin), having seen her job prospects in the States go sour. She has accepted a position as the music instructor at a small private school in the town of Carraigfaire, and has at least temporary accommodations in the house of Eamon McCarthy, who has been dead for 25 years. His wife, Orla, also died 25 years earlier; the presumption is that he killed her and then committed suicide. (A crucial part of the plot is that Eamon was a world-damous composer and that Orla was a world-famous poet.) Almost immediately after she has begun to settle in, however, Eamon’s ghost, or spirit, appears to her, and implores her to prove that he did not kill Orla and that he did not commit suicide. His presence in the story is second only to Brown’s, and their relationship is an important part of the story.
Brown wants not to be dragged into any sort of an investigation of a pair of 25-year-old deaths, but can’t avoid it.
Her teaching job, which is really a sub-plot—revolves around a County-wide classical music performance/competition. Her school has not won the competition for years, and she has only a short time to whip the advanced music students into a functioning orchestra (we’re never told how large her “orchestra” is, but 20 might be a high estimate). Her plan to win revolves around a “newly-discovered” (by her) of a new concerto written by Eamon. (Which he did, in fact, as a ghost/spirit, write as a way of bribing Brown into investigating).
The case includes a fair number of strange (if not wonderful) locals, some on whom die as Brown investigates. The local cops mostly wish she would go away; a couple (who might have botched the investigation of Orla’s murder and Eamon’s death), and one (who’s assignment is the re-investigation of cold cases, which seems unlikely to be a full time job in a small village).
Unsurprisingly, but after a lengthy and dangerous poking around (and putting her life at risk more than once), Brown reaches a conclusion, solving the 25-year-old mystery, and wins the orchestral competition. I don’t want to give away too much, but her ability to solve the mystery involves files (which have survived, intact, for quite a long period of time) from an abandoned psychiatric facility. I was, I must admit, underwhelmed. But I found Brown to be a character I would like to know better, and I will read the second in the series, at last.
 As it is, for example, in Manning Coles’ Brief Candles and Happy Returns.
 This is an aside. The story is set in a rural area of Ireland, apparently without a bid (or even medium) size city. So all the schools are small. How many such schools are likely to be able to assemble an actual orchestra (I include Brown’s school in this question)? And barring a rare and strange alignment of talent, how many of those would be able to perform at a (relatively high level? (The school at which Brown teaches encompasses what we would think of as a combined elementary and secondary school; we are given no clear indication of its total enrollment).