The best mysteries in the world of classical music

Who am I?

I’ve spent a lifetime as a professional classical musician and a mystery reader. Starting with Hardy Boys adventures at the same time I started playing the violin, my intertwined love affairs with music and the mystery genre continue to this day. As a long-time member of major American symphony orchestras, I’ve heard and experienced so many stories about the dark corners of the classical music world that they could fill a library. It gives me endless pleasure to read other mystery authors’ take on this fascinating, semi-cloistered world and to share some of my own tales with the lay public in my Daniel Jacobus mystery series.

I wrote...

Cloudy with a Chance of Murder: A Daniel Jacobus Mystery

By Gerald Elias,

Book cover of Cloudy with a Chance of Murder: A Daniel Jacobus Mystery

What is my book about?

Cloudy With a Chance of Murder is the 7th and most recent installment of the critically acclaimed Daniel Jacobus mystery series. Jacobus is a curmudgeonly, reclusive, blind violin teacher with an acerbic wit, who manages to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into baffling murder cases. Drawing upon his exquisitely honed other senses, especially hearing, he has an uncanny knack for solving crimes while getting himself into hot water.

The setting for Cloudy is the Antelope Island Chamber Music Festival in the middle of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. A violent storm erupts, leaving Jacobus and his protégée, Yumi Shinagawa, trapped on the island with a homicidal maniac on the loose. Two administrators of the festival have already been murdered. Will Yumi be the third?

The books I picked & why

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Death at La Fenice

By Donna Leon,

Book cover of Death at La Fenice

Why this book?

One of the things I love about a great mystery is the author’s ability to open doors to an unfamiliar world and, within a few pages, make the reader feel right at home in it. Donna Leon is such an author with her Inspector Brunetti series that takes place in contemporary Venice. With a virtuoso’s feel for language, nuance, and pacing, Leon leads the reader on a gondola ride through both the bright lights and murky canals of Venetian society and culture, and into the shadows of the opera world, through the perceptive eyes of her ethical, food- and family-loving protagonist, Inspector Guido Brunetti.

Neon Panic

By Charles Philipp Martin,

Book cover of Neon Panic

Why this book?

The setting is roiling Hong Kong just before the British turnover to China. A musician in the Hong Kong Philharmonic, searching for an unaccountably missing friend and colleague, becomes sucked into the back alleys of organized crime. Martin himself was a veteran professional orchestral string bass player in Hong Kong and has a consummate grasp of the pulse of the city and the vagaries of the music business. This gritty, rough-and-tumble page-turning thriller, with dialogue as spicy as the food and a noire feel, is an under-the-radar gem that in a fair world should be a best-seller. May be hard to find but so worth the effort.

The Rainaldi Quartet

By Paul Adam,

Book cover of The Rainaldi Quartet

Why this book?

Paul Adam takes readers on a tense, insiders journey through the shadowy netherworld of priceless antique violins in search for the holy grail of violins, Stradivari’s “Sister Messiah,” that leaves a trail of dead bodies in its path. The hero, Giovanni Castiglione (like Amadeo Borlotti in my Daniel Jacobus mystery, Playing With Fire) is an under-the-radar violin forger with a conscience. As a professional violinist for a half-century, I can attest that The Rainaldi Quartet is absolutely true to life from start to finish. I was unable to put it down. Adam hits the nail on the head in this gripping tale of byzantine intrigue. A virtuoso tour de force!

Canone Inverso

By Paolo Maurensig,

Book cover of Canone Inverso

Why this book?

Intense and intricate with complex human interactions subjected to the forces of history and destiny, Canone Inverso is both literary fiction and mystery. This gripping tale of evolving relationships centers around the field of classical music and a particular violin. With the setting in Germany, Austria, and Hungary during the turbulent 1930s and ’40s, a brilliant, working-class young violinist is secluded in a prison-like music conservatory with an aristocratic boy who befriends him. Gradually, their bond is severely tested. What is genius? What is friendship? What is the price paid for beauty and greatness? These are some of the issues we’re confronted with in this riveting novel.

The Murder of Figaro

By Susan Larson,

Book cover of The Murder of Figaro

Why this book?

If Canone Inverso is your main course, The Murder of Figaro is the perfect dessert. It is light, frothy, and witty as a Mozart comic opera. As it should be, since the main characters are Mozart and his wife Constanze. Together, the frolicking pair must speedily solve the backstage murder of the government censor; otherwise, Mozart’s new opera, The Marriage of Figaro, will never see the light of day. Larson herself was an accomplished opera singer and has thorough insight into the opera world: the music, the business, and the backstage backstabbing. Written as a delightful opera buffa, this book is an absolutely fun read.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in classical music, violins, and murders?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about classical music, violins, and murders.

Classical Music Explore 27 books about classical music
Violins Explore 11 books about violins
Murders Explore 338 books about murders

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The City of Falling Angels, Secret Venice, and A Season for the Dead if you like this list.