Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book Review - Carola Dunn's Requiem for a Mezzo

Requiem for a Mezzo (Daisy Dalrymple Book 3) by Carola Dunn
Published by: Kensington Books
Publication Date: 1996
Format: Paperback, 249 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

Daisy Dalrymple has some interesting neighbors in her little bohemian community of artists and writers, like Daisy herself. Out back her roommate has set up a photography studio, while right next door is the famous opera singer Bettina Westlea, who lives with her spinster sister and her older vocal coach of a husband who has students coming and going all the time. While fixing a cake for her roommate's birthday she runs out of flour and rushes next door to ask Bettina's sweet sister Muriel for the loan of some. Daisy walks right into a house full of divas, with Bettina practicing for her big performance that coming weekend of Verdi's Requiem at Albert Hall, while her husband coaches Miss Olivia Blaise, the talented singer who was up for the part Bettina snagged, and then in walks their conductor, Mr. Eric Cochran. To get Daisy off the front line, Muriel plies her with tickets to the performance, as well as the flour she so desperately needed.

Daisy knows exactly who she wants to take to the concert. Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher. Sure she tends to nose in on his cases... but it gives her a chance to see him. This would be a first outing for them without murder and mayhem, until Bettina drops dead on stage right after the interval. Alec takes charge of the scene but he knows, no matter how hard he tries, that Daisy will worm her way into his case and take someone under her protective wing. The suspect list is very fixed, but they are all of an artistic temperament and therefore have drama and secrets born in their very bones. From Bettina's cuckolded husband, Roger Abernathy, to conductor Eric Cochran and Olivia Blaise, the object of his affection, to Bettina's sister and her secret love interest, the Russian Jew, Yakov Levich, too the other soloists, the Spanish soprano Consuela de la Costa, the Welsh tenor Gilbert Gower, and the hostile bass, Dimitri Marchenko... to various spouses... well, Alec will have his job cut out for him untangling this mess. Luckily for him Daisy is there to help him, even if he doesn't see it as such.

While I really enjoyed the first two mysteries in Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple series, they were very much more in the traditional vein of Golden Age "Manor House" Mysteries. Daisy arrives at a grand estate and murder ensues and Alec is called in. While this is all well and good and enjoyable, for the purpose of a series, setting each book up like this, well, the plot would get old fast. That's why I love how Carola has stepped it up a notch with Requiem for a Mezzo. In the previous two volumes we had heard how Daisy had bucked the conventions of her "honourable" and gone working girl, but it's one thing to hear about it as just a part of her character's background, it's another thing to get to be a part of that life as we see her typing away on her behemoth typewriter on the gorgeous Georgian writing table from her ancestral home in the heart of Chelsea while her roommate is out back in the mews cum photography studio taking portraits of the neighbors Opera students. You get a firmer grip on who Daisy is. In the manor houses we saw who she was, the honourable that can blend into any social setting, but here, here is the life she has chosen for herself. The beans and toast meals, the struggling to get by. The life that she has made for herself makes it far more likely that her and Alec are compatible. Which for me is a strong yeah.

What takes the cake, sponge of course, is the artistic temperaments and the petty jealousies, secret affairs, grudges, and just plain hatred that live within the world of Opera. For many years I worked in theatre, even on a few Operas, backstage of course, doing the painting and the props. I had minimal interaction with the actors on the whole, but I did have many classes with them, and while there were dramas backstage with the crew, it was really the dramas and intrigues of the actors that trickled down to us that we fed off of. Who was seeing who, which of the men was a real whore, who was the biggest diva, which actors weren't talking to each other, sadly never a murder in the lot, but one can see how that could easily happen. They are high strung and I wouldn't say they are all promiscuous, but within a fixed community, you will get some bed jumping, as Gilbert Gower shows with his predilection to international beauties. So, what struck me is that Carola was just spot on with showing the inter dynamics of her cast of characters. I lived in that world and she took me right back there.

While I was reading this book, one thing struck me, and that's this. Requiem for a Mezzo NEEDS to be made into a British TV Movie. It can even be a one off instead of a series, because seriously, I have the dream cast in mind. Firstly, Gilbert Gower, the Welsh playboy... who has the voice and the talent and the raw sex appeal and is Welsh? Tom Jones! Tom Jones as Gilbert Gower, and really, my job here is done. But, I will take the time to round out the cast. While she can't sing, that I know of, I think Consuela de la Costa needs to be played by Sofia Vergara. She has the diva attitude and the sex appeal, plus her and Tom Jones, I KNOW you want to see that. Now for the starring role as our murder victim... Katerine Jenkins. Such an amazing and gorgeous voice, and a real opera singer to boot. I think it would be totally spiffing to have her play against her sweet demeanour by being a bitchy diva. As for Daisy and Alec, I've always pictured Alec as Dominic West... I don't know why, but I always have. Perhaps he just lends himself to being a cop, or he has those expressive eyebrows of Alec's, or is just wonderful in period pieces, but anyway, he would be perfect. And then, after recently watching The Hour, I think we need Romola Garai to be Daisy. First, she has the chemistry with West, second, she has the dirty honey blond hair that would look so cute in the bob Daisy gets, as well as being an amazing actress. So I want and need this to happen, so minions or whomever at the BBC reads this, get this going, ok?


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