Whereas in The Rosebush Murders, DI Helen Mirkin is forced to walk the unending corridors of City Hospital and interview physicians seemingly intent on furthering their own careers at the expense of their patients, the investigation described in Murder in the Choir takes place against the backdrop of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ music world, a world we have already encountered (and to some extent familiarized ourselves with) in the first novel. It is not every day that a musically-minded detective has access to this world, and such an investigation has its price.
DI Mirkin has a personal stake in the investigation: the death of Araceli Pena touches her more than she may be aware of, or care to admit. For if until now, music had provided the detective with a refuge of sorts, an oasis to which she could venture when needing to distance herself from her grimy profession, the soprano’s death and its repercussions, threaten the existence of this transitional space between fantasy and reality.
Death is no longer an event to be negotiated when conveniently located on stage, that is, an [predictable] occurrence that simultaneously touches the lives of both operatic characters and the actual audience ensconced in the safety of their seats. It now assumes a malodorous presence in the midst of the living microcosmos which is the Opera Music Workshop, and comes to threaten its continued existence.
Despite the questions that the novel answers, motivations remain in large measure murky and uncertain, the villains impulsive, irrational and opportunistic, as they hurl themselves among the moving wheels of time, rather than await their turn according to a more linear and orderly progression of events.
One thing is clear: whatever process or dynamic prompts the protagonists to action, it does not stem from what Solan (2015) has described as healthy narcissism. There is no respect for the difference of otherness, and ‘I’ reigns supreme.