Dissonance: A Novel of Music and Murder by Barbara Burt
Allegra Brewster has returned to her childhood home to take her first 'real' job post-graduate school. She has just earned a Master's degree in arts management and is employed as an assistant to the director of the local summer arts (music) festival in her small town in coastal Maine. She is also a cellist. She has been involved with the festival since she was a kid and her father is on the board. When the story opens, there is trouble brewing. The director, Dr Sylvia Abbott (a geologist) has decided that the financial situation requires the musicians to take a 35% pay cut, add free performances to the schedule, and reapply for their positions by writing an essay about what the festival means to them. What she is really trying to do is break the musicians union. Her thinking is that they will be outraged, strike, and turn the townspeople against them. She manages to get most of the other board members to go along with this plan, but Allegra's father, David, holds out.
Time passes and events unfold. The festival rolls around once again, but this time someone will not be around to see the end of it. With so many people around, any number of people could have committed the murder and suspicion falls on various people in turn, including on David. Allegra and her ex-boyfriend, Luke, start snooping around since the police detective has some bigotry issues that cloud his judgement.
Music is a huge part of this book--almost a character in and of itself. This was one reason why the book was appealing to me when I read the description and I was not disappointed. Allegra turns to music to help her through tough times and to suit her mood. Many songs are mentioned in the book and there is a Spotify playlist that goes with the book. I have looked up some of the music mentioned and found it on YouTube. I am more interested in cello music now than I was before reading this book, which I am thrilled about. I feel like that's one of the gifts of the book for me--more music to discover. Also, I am fascinated by the ways in which people find and cultivate their passions in life, no matter what they are, but particularly in creative endeavors. I've done life story work with artists and craftswomen where they talked about this, so this was a very appealing part of the book for me.
The story was well-written and interesting. I enjoyed the backstories of the characters, although in one case the way this was presented seemed a bit like it was just plunked down out of nowhere in a short chapter in order to justify what came next. Really, that was my only quibble with the book and it didn't detract from my reading experience. I found myself immersed in the story from the beginning and when I had to set the book aside I was eager to get back to it. The ending was plausible and unexpected. It's a really good read, which I heartily recommend.
I received a copy of the e-book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I thank them, the publisher, and the author.