Ding Dong the Diva's Dead
A Deborah de Lille Mystery by Cat Melodia
Review: After mezzo soprano Juanita Macaree-Smith drives her car off a cliff — was it an accident? suicide? … murder? — Debbie de Lille is hired to take her place in a production currently rehearsing in Idaho, only to find the backstage intrigue far more interesting than the opera in which she's to perform, in Ding Dong the Diva's Dead, the first mystery in this series by Cat Melodia.
Debbie is taking the role of Nicklausse in Jacques Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, a mid-19th century opera that combines three supernatural novellas by E. T. A. Hoffmann, who (as a character) is also the star tenor and a ladies' man attracted to femme fatales. That Juanita was originally playing Nicklausse, Hoffmann's best friend, is somewhat puzzling, as it is a relatively minor character for such a diva. Still, it's an opportunity for Debbie to add a role to her rather meager resume and she's decided to embrace it. But there are surprises aplenty in store for Debbie and the crew: the director decides to update the context of the opera to the present, putting everyone in a tizzy; smoke bombs are tossed into guest rooms by persons, and for reasons, unknown; and Debbie's missing car is found at the bottom of a local lake, its young driver drowned.
Ding Dong the Diva's Dead is a busy mystery, frenetic even, with the narrative seeming to never take a break. There are a lot of characters with roles to play here, many of which contribute in a meaningful way to the plot. The often seamless interplay and transition between the characters in the opera and those in the book tends to compound the difficulty of keeping track of who's who. Indeed, other than Debbie, there's not much to distinguish the characters — they all seem slightly eccentric in one way or another — and they tend to blur together after a while. The operatic elements, however, are presented in an entertaining manner, and some readers will no doubt delight in the madcap adventure Debbie seems to be on, but the lack of focus on the matter at hand, the whodunit, if you will, probably makes the book somewhat less satisfactory for those seeking a well-developed mystery story.
Acknowledgment: Camel Press provided an ARC of Ding Dong the Diva's Dead for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Ding Dong the Diva's Dead: Idaho
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Ding Dong the Diva's Dead by Cat Melodia — A Deborah de Lille Mystery
Publisher: Camel Press
Publication Date: February 2011
List Price: $24.95