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Shadow Music (3) (A Maggie O'Shea Mystery) Reviewed by Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com
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Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Saturday, October 23, 2021

 

Author: Helaine Mario

Publisher: Oceanview Publishers

ISBN: 978-1-60809-450-9

Imagine for one moment a missing Vincent Van Gogh painting that some unsavory Russian characters would crave to get their hands on? Nothing would stop them from murdering anyone in their path to snatch the artwork? Such is Helaine Mario's recent thriller, Shadow Music.

The prologue sets the tone of her narrative as she foreshadows events, persons, and consequences far beyond the episode depicted.

Two frightened young girls, Donata Kardos, her friend Tereza Janos, and her tiny child, Gemma Roza, are fleeing Hungary in 1985. Donata's cousin Pavel agrees to transport them in his truck across the border to Austria.

Hours earlier, Donata watches Tereza pack a bag with clothing, banknotes, photographs, and her father Anton's treasures that he had left behind the night the soldiers came for him.

Among the belongings is a Guarnieri Violin, encased in a heavy woolen jacket and a painted canvas. As the drama unfolds, the painting is featured at the heart of the tale.

When Pavel arrives, he picks up Tereza's large duffel bag and chucks it into his truck. The only ones to escape are Donata, Tereza's baby, and Anton's belongings. Unfortunately, Tereza is shot and slain by a Russian soldier.

The ensuing string of events introduces us to Maggie O'Shea, a gifted classical pianist. She is performing at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

After her performance, Maggie wanders through the museum admiring the wonderful art and meetsYuri Belankov, ex-violinist from St. Petersburg, Russia. Belankov introduces Maggie to his friend, Nikolai Kirov, who owns a high-end art gallery in Manhattan.

Belankov informs Maggie that he is preparing a tour of the U.S.A by the New Russian Symphony Orchestra, whose conductor, Valentin Zharkov, has made quite a name for himself. He would like Maggie to solo with the orchestra.

Belankov and Kirov agree that Maggie is a means to an end, and for both of them, each will get what they want. Somehow these two Russians and Zharkov are interconnected to a missing Van Gogh painting that will play itself out over the several succeeding chapters.

We learn that Maggie's husband Johnny was embroiled in an unfortunate boating accident and is presumed to have drowned somewhere off the Mediterranean coast. His body was never recovered. Maggie is briefed by Detective Simon Sugarman that Johnny, a prize-winning journalist, was working on an article concerning a Van Gogh painting that vanished after the Cold War.

Sugarman informs Maggie that he has his eye on three Russians working together who want the lost painting. He further points out to Maggie that Johnny had called him two years prior. At the time, he mentioned that a Roman Catholic nun with the given name of Donata Kardos had reached out to him with a story about a lost painting from Budapest. The nun was a friend of a well-known Hungarian violinist, Anton Janos, and his daughter. One day Janos was taken away by soldiers and was never seen again. He had left behind his violin, letters, and music, and a priceless piece of art-all concealed beneath a false floor next door to Donata's apartment. Donata recounts how she fled from Hungary with Janos' granddaughter and vanished until she turned up on Johnny's doorstep.

Another character introduced into the plot is Colonel Michael Beckett and his three-legged Golden Retriever, Shiloh, rescued from a bombed village in Afghanistan. Beckett and Maggie are both deeply attracted to each other, and the chemistry had been immediate, tumultuous, and adversarial. Their relationship becomes somewhat complicated when Maggie learns that her husband Johnny may still be alive. She sets off to find him.

The plot thickens when Beckett hears about the strangulation of Irina Davidov by a piano wire. Irina was his best buddy, Yev's only child. The homicide had been witnessed by her son Yevgeny. As it turns out, Irina was Kirov's accountant, and she knew too much about his dealings in looted art.

The biggest reason for nestling this novel in your lap is that it is loaded with several characters with their own tension filled narratives.

Trust me when I say this is not a one-idea book. At times it felt like a giant puzzle with characters that are dealing with all kinds of struggles. You will love the challenge in trying to figure it all out. An added feature is Mario's engrossing writing that is propelled by a fluid narrative interwoven with a disturbing undertone which can prove quite a balancing act. She is also able to keep all the elements of the narrative in suspension until the last chapters when she neatly ties all of the loose ends together.

Follow Here For Norm's Interview With Helaine Mario

 

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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Name: Norm Goldman
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Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
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