The Honorable Daisy Dalrymple gets invited to a concert of Verdi’s Requiem, where she gets embroiled in another murder mystery in Requiem for a Mezzo, the third in Carola Dunn’s series. Living in bohemian Chelsea, where she shares a little house with her photographer friend from their school days, Lucy Fatheringay, Daisy develops many friends from all walks of life. This includes a professional singer, Bettina Westlea, and her sister, Muriel, a member of the choir. They give Daisy free tickets to the concert that is to make March 18, 1923 Bettina’s day of triumph, as she sings the mezzo-soprano part of the Requiem.
Daisy invites Chief Detective Inspector Alec Fletcher to accompany her, and they are enjoying the concert as the second half opens when Bettina takes a sip from a cup under her chair and claws the air, collapsing dead within a minute. With the odor of almonds in the air, it is obvious to all that Bettina has been poisoned with cyanide. Since he has been on the scene from the start, Alec gets put in charge of the investigation of Bettina’s murder, and it soon becomes apparent that there is no shortage of suspects. In fact, the only person whom everyone agrees could not have taken her life is Roger Abernathy, the much older husband of Bettina, who dotes on her despite Bettina’s flaunting her numerous affairs with all sorts of men.
Requiem for a Mezzo is filled with a plethora of interesting suspects and does a good job of juggling them for us to see the potential case against each one. In addition, Alec has two delightful members of his team who add flavor to the book.
The books in this series, especially the early books, deal a lot with issues of class and race in 1920s England. The primary class conflict is the disapproval of both Daisy’s friends and Alec’s mother over their developing romantic relationship because Daisy comes from the aristocracy and Alec from the middle class.
But beyond that in Requiem for a Mezzo is the tension among the musicians when they are outside the concert hall. The wife of the concert director shows her bitterness at the fact that she was not allowed to inherit her father’s title, so she is determined to push her husband to a career that will lead to his being given the knighthood. Many characters, especially Muriel’s parents, a stern pastor and his down-trodden wife, show not only prejudice but antagonism towards Yaakov Levitch, the Jewish violinist who clearly admires Muriel but won’t approach her because he considers himself too poor to ask her to marry him, and it would be a disgrace to live off her money.
The book demonstrates the intense xenophobia found in 1920s England. In addition to the anti-Semitism shown against Levitch, there is the hatred of Russians, Soviets, Jews, and pretty much everyone else by the bass soloist and discussions of foreign women who have affairs with the tenor.
Bernadette Dunne continues narrating the series with this book and does a good job.
I found this third installment of the series to have a different flavor from the prior two, being a bit lighter but with more social issues of the day than the first two. It also is nice to get to see Daisy’s home life in London, opposed to her visiting estate homes in the first two books. I give this book four stars.
Requiem for a Mezzo (Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, No. 3) is available now in multiple formats. To order from Amazon, click the link in the title. You may also find the book in your local library or bookstore.