Unstrung is a classic “cozy” mystery in the English tradition, though this one gets its dark and stormy nights courtesy of Kirkland, Washington, and its plot complications from the cutthroat world of classical music. Wait, cutthroat? No. Make that poisonous.
Classical musicians Althea and Grace have ditched session work in Hollywood (and Althea’s failed marriage) to open a music school in an enormous house in the Washington woods. Hosting an epic Christmas tea in Blanchard House augurs well for their fortunes, until one of the guests ends up dead. Complications to solving the mystery include several dogs and cats, even more potential human suspects, and Althea’s raging crush on the investigating detective, who seems to be returning her feelings.
Author Cynthia Morrow lives in Kirkland, Washington, and is a professional musician. She writes what she knows and does it very well. Althea is a smart, funny narrator. When the detective she likes refers to her roommate as her “partner,” she’s quick to correct him to signal her availability, then laughs at herself: “In another second, I probably would have blurted out, “Men! I like men!” Subtlety has never been my strong suit.”
There’s a large cast here, but each character (including the cats and dogs) are vivid and distinct, and the whodunit at the heart of the book has many twists and turns. Setting the story in a world many readers haven’t experienced makes it that much richer. For all the glamour associated with orchestras, the job itself sometimes means freezing your backside off while trying to do Mozart justice in an unheated church balcony.
Morrow has subtitled this book, “A Blanchard House Mystery.” If she’s hinting at the possibility of this becoming a series, it’s reason to rejoice. She has created engaging characters, a wonderful setting, and most importantly, the chops to deliver a grade-A read. Encore!
Also available in hardcover and ebook.