DEADLY ARIA
Paul Myers


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Vanguard, 1987
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Contemporary Mystery, Europe

Mark Holland, former British intelligence operative, is enjoying his new career as a musical manager. He has left the Department so far behind him that it is a shock when he is the subject of a failed murder attempt. Department higher-up Quentin Sharpe warns that further attempts are expected. Reluctant as Mark is to cooperate with the Department, whose demands severely violated his conscience, he has little choice when people keep dying around him.

DEADLY ARIA conveys a sense of the close-knit intelligence community of Europe. The operatives have more in common with their foreign opposite numbers than they do with the citizens they protect, and a cozy atmosphere is created by how well they know each other. Beyond their clever tactical coils, the author evidently feels it is unnecessary to understand the agents as people, and it is unlikely they are as predictable as Myers portrays them.

Author Paul Myers appears to care more about plot than depth, and more about creating interesting characters than living ones. DEADLY ARIA's plot is seen only through the eyes of Mark Holland. This makes the suspense possible as the reader shares Markís uncertainties and discoveries. Our attention is focused early on the one incident from which the book stems, and we donít have many possible vengeful enemies to choose from. A quick character twist makes the plot work.

Certain characters around Mark stand out sharply. We regret the early departure of the engaging and complicated Lydia, who wants Mark to be her agent but becomes the first murder victim instead. Ruzena, who rescued Mark and was rescued by him in gratitude, is so tragically real we feel sure we have met her on our home block. Markís special client, opera star Bianca Morini, has a gaudy sparkle to bring a twinkle to our eyes. On the other hand Mark's love interest is a vacuum in girlish pearls, and the villain would be more real and frightening on the wall as a finger-shadow.

Author Myers, a music producer turned author, is still captivated by classical music. As he writes about music, he can captivate us, too, if we are at all susceptible.

It is a pleasure to note that I have read the two books following this one, and Myers' characterization is significantly improving. By the fifth book, DEADLY SCORE, his people are beginning to get up off the page and take part in their own stories. His settings feel lived-in. It will be worth while to read farther in the series.

May 2000 Review

 

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