Detective-Superintendent Simon Hudson is falling in love. A widower for many years (his first wife died when had been married for only four months), Hudson knows that his relationship with Delia Jones is becoming serious, and he’s considering when it might be best for him to ask her to marry him. Delia is a member of the Metropolitana, an amateur 200-strong choral society that stages productions in London. Young as she is, she’s also a member of the society’s managing committee and knows quite a bit about the organization’s politics and personalities.
The personalities include the official conductor, the 79-year-old Evan Tredegar, who’s something of a major presence in London music. He’s just finished composing a choral mass, and the Metropolitana will be performing it. Another personality is Owen Burr, the prickly assistant conductor who has the gift of managing to offend and insult everything he works with. The work is considered so significant that an Italian tenor Cassati will be joining them – a huge coup for the society.
Hudson is in the theater for the performance, with an excellent seat thanks to Delia. The performance is a triumph with a considerable amount of loud music at the end. As the audience is standing in thunderous applause, Owen Burr clutches the conductor’s podium and falls over, dead. He’s been shot, and the angles suggest the gun could have been fired from one of three “plumes” of direction. Two of the three plumes implicate members of the orchestra and choir (including Delia); the third points to the composer himself. And so Hudson finds himself investigating a murder in which one of the suspects is the woman he intends to propose to.
First published in 1959, Murder to Music by Margaret Newman tells the story of how Hudson solves the crime, sometimes stumbling his way into revelations about the various suspects. No one seems particularly interested in helping too much, and Hudson more than once finds himself having to put suspects in the places and being a bit heavy-handed with his intended fiancée.
Margaret Potter (1926-1998), nee Newman, wrote under both her married and maiden names, as well as the pen names Anne Betteridge and Anne Melville. She published more than 50 romance, children’s and mystery novels and numerous short stories. Murder to Music is the only novel the British author published under her maiden name. She received her B.A. and M.A. degrees from St. Hugh’s College, Oxford.
Murder to Music is an intriguing mix of mystery, with the extensive overlay of music, a music society and its politics, and a motive buried in the distant past.
Top photograph by Manuel Nageli via Unsplash. Used with permission.