"Renata darling." He replaced the receiver, put his feet on the edge of the desk, and pushed back into the depths of his comfortable chair, interlacing his fingers behind his head. He was always striking the sort of poses television actors did. Not the best actors, either. "How would you like to be my guest at Carmen's Cornucopia tonight?"
A ripple of irritation crossed his face. "The season kick-off donor appreciation party. Only our biggest do of the year."
"Oh, Don. You know I'm no good at those things."
"You needn't scintillate. The donors will be thrilled just to meet the singer they'll see playing Mercédès."
"No. They'd be thrilled to meet the singer they'll see playing Carmen."
"Yes, well, Carmen's busy."
"Oh. And Micaëla and Escamillo? Am I the best you could do?"
Don swung his feet to the floor and sat up, glowering. "A lot of the artists round here lack a sense of their larger responsibilities."
"Don, please, I'm knackered. There are serious problems with Act III--technical problems. I've been sitting in the theatre all day listening to the director shouting at the boffins. I've had hardly a chance to sing."
"Then how can you be tired? This is what I mean about a sense of larger responsibilities. You're upset about a technical problem in Act III. Until last week, we weren't sure we'd be able to put on Carmen at all. It was a co-production with Opera Oklahoma and they had a funding crisis of their own and dropped out, leaving us with a stack of unpaid bills. Do you remember any of this?"
When her brother fished for compliments, he didn't use a hook and line. He used dynamite. "Yes. And I remember you went out and got the big donation. You're the man of the honor. Your name is on everyone's lips. It ought to be a thrill for me to be beside you tonight."
Don nodded contentedly. Over the years in America, his irony detector had become rusty. "My feelings aren't important," he said unconvincingly. "What matters is that the Stromberg-Brands have a lovely evening. This will be the first public announcement of their gift. Considering that without them you wouldn't have a job, it doesn't seem too much to ask of you to say a civil word to them."
The strap of her shoulder-bag was wearing a groove in her clavicle. There was no point standing here arguing any longer. "Oh, very well. But you ought to know by now, Don, how easy it is to make me feel guilty. You needn't be so heavy-handed about it."
But he had lost interest as soon as she capitulated. His smartphone was in his hand and he was bowing over the little screen. "See you under the tent in half an hour, then."
"Half an hour? Is it all right if I come as I am?"
He looked her up and down and returned his gaze to the screen. "Renata. Of course not."
The demure and yet sassy
Andy Howardson Customer Review on Amazon. com
The demure yet sassy
protagonist of David Linzee’s elegant and suspenseful mystery, Renata Radleigh, is a buxom, London-born opera singer. She has lived in America for long enough that she longer counts as an innocent abroad; but she is still British enough to stand apart from the friendly but at times wary inhabitants of her adopted country – many of whom are, in their way, outsiders too, like PR man Peter Lombardo who falls under her spell and provides the novel with a nicely underplayed touch of romance.
What might have turned out as an ongoing culture clash is treated by Linzee more as a source of discrete comedy, as when Renata’s at times dated Britishisms, and the sense that she has never quite left London W.11, arouse incomprehension or hilarity in the Midwest. But her foreignness also exposes her to take risks that a native might have avoided. Increasingly driven by the desire to clear the name of her (much less charming) brother when he becomes the prime suspect in a murder case, she turns into an amateur sleuth; but though she is led down some dangerous paths, she is resilient enough to bounce back, and she has the plucky integrity to pursue her quest in spite of the increasing threat of violence she faces. The novel, for all its lightness of tone – Linzee uses language economically, depicting characters and places in a few deft lines of description – is unblinking. The glamorous world of opera is a place where untrammelled egos are on the rampage, and the quality of the music often plays second fiddle to the jejune shock-tactics of directors forever chasing the latest ‘concept’ (Pelléas et Mélisande set aboard a Polaris submarine), while the predictable crowd-pleasing cash cows of the standard repertory are monotonously wheeled out, to the detriment of more challenging and thought-provoking pieces such as Berg’s Wozzeck, the greatest opera of the twentieth century. So opera is both full of prima donnas and desperately in need of funding, even when this comes from ethically dodgy sources…? That will come as no surprise to anyone. And the world of big pharma is equally corrupt (and at times murderously intent on protecting its power and prestige)…? That’s been the object of countless exposés in recent years. But Linzee’s achievement here is to interweave these two worlds of opera and medical research in unpredictable, provocative, at times slyly humorous, but always challenging ways, so that we shift in a page or two from an informed, technical discussion of urinary tract infections to the relative number of hits on YouTube gained by the great singers Frederica von Stade and Cecilia Bartoli… This is a world where every significant building in the arts and sciences, every concert hall or lecture block, seems to be named after someone mainly distinguished by being very rich: we see again, as in the great nineteenth-century pessimists such as Balzac, how the quest to create life-saving new knowledge or pioneering, soul-uplifting artworks is generally driven by much less high-minded impulses than we would imagine (the need for cash, for fame, or, as so many operatic characters have occasion to sing, for ‘vendetta!’).
The novel comes to a thrilling conclusion as our melodious heroine, given a chance to sing the role she’s always dreamed of, discovers – in a moment that sends a shiver up your spine like the implacable fate motif in Carmen – that this pinnacle of her career might bring her a little too close than she would like to the tragic doom of the Spanish gypsy woman whose part she is playing.
This is a tightly-plotted, observant and persuasive mystery novel; David Linzee is a well-informed guide to both opera and the pharmaceutical industry, and he grounds his tale in a sparsely but very atmospherically evoked Saint Louis. And it brings high art and low deeds together with considerable brio, to form an intriguing and urgent polyphony of intrigue, rivalry and passion. Type your paragraph here.
Library Journal review:
Linzee, David. Spur of the Moment: A Renata Radleigh Opera Mystery. Coffeetown.
Apr. 2016. 323p. ISBN 9781603813419.
pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603813426. M
Renata Radleigh used to be somebody in the opera world. Now, she makes her living as a journeywoman, moving among opera companies during the season and teaching piano at her home in London to fill in the budgetary gaps. Currently, she is singing with the St. Louis Opera Company where her brother, Don, is the finance manager. When Don is accused of having a liaison with a major donor, Dr. Helen Stromberg-Brand, and then killing her to cover up the affair, Renata is the only person who is convinced of Don’s innocence. She has to work with a charming PR flack, Peter Lombardo, to exonerate Don. VERDICT Who knew life in an opera company was so cutthroat? Not to mention the greed and deceit involved in Big Pharma? Linzee (Infamous St. Louis Crimes and Mysteries) has written an entertaining mystery, full of intriguing backstage details about opera productions and introducing an appealing heroine who is feisty, funny, and deeply loyal to her shallow sibling. Recommend for fans of Blair Tindall’s memoir Mozart in the Jungle and anyone who enjoys crime served up with an aria.
From Spur of the Moment: After a tiring day's rehearsal, Renata is called to the office of her brother Don, opera fundraiser..
CrimeFiction Lover. com review
Opera mysteries are a rare thing but St Louis author David Linzee hopes to tap a narrow-but-deep cross-over of interests with his first Renata Radleigh book.
Renata is an English opera singer currently employed by the St Louis Opera to sing the relatively minor role of Mercédès in Bizet’s four-act classic,Carmen. Her brother, fellow ex-pat David, is also employed by the SLO, but his task is to tout far and wide for commercial sponsorship.
When a key company patron Helen Stromberg-Brand is found brutally murdered, the police suspect David Radleigh and arrest him. His motive? It seems that Helen – nicknamed Sturm und Drang – and her husband were on the verge of cancelling a huge donation. Could they have argued? Did David lose his temper with the headstrong woman?
But there could be another motive… Helen Stromberg-Brand was a national celebrity, at least in the field of pharmaceutical research. She and her team were on the threshold of patenting a revolutionary drug to combat urinary tract infection in women. In partnership with the charismatic billionaire Keith Bryson – who has the casual dress sense, long hair and boyish charm of Richard Branson – Helen’s unit at the Adams University Medical Centre were about to find even greater fame and riches. Now she lies in the police mortuary, her head shattered by a heavy glass bowl.
Renata is not the world’s most loving sister, but she refuses to accept that David could have killed Sturm und Drang, if only because he is far too wet and wimpy for murder. Together with a former reporter, Peter Lombardo, she thinks the lady’s demise was less to do with the SLO, and more to do with the cut-throat world of drug patenting.
The author has himself been a ‘supernumary’ – basically the opera equivalent of a spear carrier – and he enjoys several digs at the way an opera company in a mid-sized city is run. I particularly enjoyed his jibes at the ubiquitous need for sponsorship. The SLO has to make sure that literally every brick in the building has corporate support. Thus we have the Peter J Calvocoressi Administration Building, the Charles Macnamara III Auditorium and – best of all – the Endeavour Rent-a-Car Endowed Artist. In this case it’s Amy Song, the woman playing Carmen.
By the time Renata and Peter think they have unravelled the mystery of who killed the formidable Mrs Stromberg-Brand, the unorthodox stage set of the Carmen production experiences a malfunction. A giant playing card land on the heroine’s head. An all-points-bulletin is issued for the only actress who can replace the stricken Ms Song – none other than our very own Renata Radleigh. Renata takes the stage in triumph, but before the distraught Don José can plunge his stage dagger into Carmen’s heart, a real killer pre-empts the drama at the bull-fighting arena.
The book sits fairly comfortably in the cosy bracket. This is by no means a criticism, but the gentle humour and thoroughly urbane style of writing point Spur of the Moment in that direction. Blood is shed, certainly, but not dwelt upon. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read and you might just fall in love with Renata. However, I am an ardent opera fan and a former musical thesp, and I do wonder if readers less versed in the peculiar ways of grand opera – both front and back stage – will enjoy it quite as much as I did. I look forward to Mr Lindzee’s next production starring Ms Radleigh.
Alex Edwards-Bourdrez on Amazon
As a dabbler in theater and, formerly, a PR hack and a fundraiser, I was deliciously skewered by the sharp pokes at that combined backdrop to this colorful tale. Copious servings of egotism and pretentiousness, along with rivalry and its attending jealousy and spite, cast plenty of misdirected suspicion to keep the reader turning the pages, all of which are seasoned with a balance of lean, evocative descriptions and delightfully dry wit. The heroine and her ally balance the mix with just the right amount of smarts and honor to counteract the foolishness and ignominy of the others. As the whodunit intrigue is intensified by an emerging danger of more bad behavior, the reader feels all the more compelled to solve the mystery before it’s too late. You will savor this, and the aftertaste will linger in all its satisfying subtlety.
West End Word
by Jennifer Alexander
On a May evening in Webster Groves, guests are filling a party tent at the home of the St. Louis Opera. It is the annual donor appreciation party to launch the season.
The weather is perfect, a mezzo-soprano is present to greet patrons, and the director is ready to announce a major donation. What could possibly go wrong?
Plenty, according to local author David Linzee in his nicely-paced, entertaining mystery "Spur of the Moment." Linzee presents a host of colorful characters caught up in a murder investigation that connects the world of opera with the highly competitive field of medical research.
The heroine is Londoner Renata Radleigh, an aging opera singer who has steady work, primarily singing smaller roles. She spends May and June of most years performing at the St. Louis Opera where her brother Don is the director of development.
Renata and Don could not be more different, a fact that Linzee deftly reveals in the opening pages. Renata, despite being exhausted and annoyed with a summons from her brother, refuses to betray irritation to the assistant sent to fetch her. Don, on the other hand, keeps his sister waiting as he talks on the phone in an exaggerated and falsely grand accent.
Don has possibly saved the struggling opera company with a large donation from a prominent local physician. Dr. Helen Stromberg-Brand is the head of a research department at the medical school of Adams University. She is close to finalizing a potentially highly profitable vaccine. Her main rival at the university is a man whose research has potential for saving lives, but has less potential to attract grant money.
When Stromberg-Brand is found murdered, suspicion falls on Don. Renata works to clear her brother's name, joining forces with a former reporter suffering from boredom in his quiet public relations job at Adams University.
"Spur of the Moment" is an entertaining novel full of St. Louis references, British slang, and a dab of commentary on the state of medical research. Readers will enjoy this light, quirky tale of fictional intrigue set in our own backyard.
St. LouisMagazine review by Jeannette Cooperman:
I knew David Linzee as a mild-mannered, professorial type with a dry wit. He taught writing at the University of Missouri-St. Louis for years, and his freelance pieces were always smart, graceful, and solidly researched.
I did not know he’d lived in New York and written murder mysteries, years ago. Surprisingly hip murder mysteries, in fact. And now that he’s retired, he’s written another, and it looks like the start of a promising series.
Spur of the Moment, set for release April 1 by Coffeetown Press in Seattle, is labeled “a Renata Radleigh Opera Mystery,” and it’s set at an opera theater quite like the one in Webster Groves. As for Renata, she’s delightful—a spirited, statuesque Brit gifted with Linzee’s wit and a pompous ass of a brother. She’s the one with talent (though it’s not flashy enough to catapult her to diva status), and he’s the schmoozy fundraiser for the opera company. It’s rather satisfying when he’s arrested for murder.
What’s more satisfying, though, is Radleigh’s fierce loyalty to her shallow and pretentious brother. She forges in to defend him, doing Wagnerian battle with an idiot of a police detective and earning the admiration (soon to turn amorous) of an investigative reporter. “Renata is very outspoken,” confides Linzee, whose characters are collaged from bits of himself and bits of others. “I think of those things, and then I don’t say them.”
Renata does, so in her lovely clipped tones, we’re treated to Linzee’s scathing opinion of philanthropy at its ickiest, the sad truths about the public relations-journalism divide, and the raw greed of Big Pharma.
St. Louisans will recognize the streets, the suburb-city divide, the thrill and wariness with which our audiences greet an unconventional opera, the niceness and self-deprecation that defines us.
Mystery lovers will enjoy the intelligent writing, the mix of light and dark, the astute psychology and biting social satire, and the satisfaction of a traditional (but not formulaic) mystery that’s a bit of a classed-up romp. Linzee, as usual, knows his stuff: Turns out he’s volunteered for years as a supernumerary at Opera Theatre Saint Louis, and personally restarted the production of The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein when the diva’s mechanical horse got stuck, giving it a good old-fashioned shove on the rump.
His latest novel needs no such shove.