Ding Dong the Diva's Dead by Cat Melodia
Camel Press, ISBN 978-1603818070
January 30, 2011, 246 pages
Sure, mezzo soprano Deborah de Lille has dreams of being a hugely successful opera singer, even as she scrapes by performing for bored local school kids. So when her friend and agent calls to tell her that he has wangled a small role for her in an Idaho opera company's production of Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman, she is a bit more thrilled than the minor role might call for. At least it is a start, a real profession production, financially underwritten, quite generously, by a millionaire local software mogul. She is the last minute fill in for a singer who was killed in a tragic car accident, and arrives to find that since another singer also had to very unexpectedly leave with no notice, she will actually be performing two roles.
She finds that she is stepping, quite literally, into a buzzing bee's nest. Many of the performers have some sort of previous personal relationship, friends and enemies, lovers, ex-lovers and rivals. Debbie tries to keep her head down and stay out of trouble but things start to go awry almost at one. A bike accident and smoke bombs may just be pranks, but when the brakes lines on Debbie's car are cut, fire breaks out, disco balls crash and someone ends up dead, it seems that someone may be trying to end Debbie's stage career before the curtain has even gone up. Why anyone would even bother might be the greatest mystery. Oh..did I mention the ghost?
At least ever time Debbie finds herself in peril...for some reason, usually while she is naked..that very wealthy and happily, very handsome, benefactor, always seem to be there to come to her rescue! Hmmm...just why is that?
Just as opera..and opera singers...may be a bit over the top, Ding Dong the Diva's Dead is a funny, rather over the top sort of mystery. The names of some of the characters are almost bizarre enough to make you laugh and I was quite happy to have all the 'performers' listed in the playbill at the beginning of the book to keep the large and colorful cast straight. Well, straight would be the wrong word for several of them. It is the theater after all!
"Add to the mix three preening tenors, a sexy lesbian director, a vengeful conductor, an obscenely rich and Hollywood-handsome general director, a fading Italian pop star, a trio of bitchy leading sopranos, an ambitious understudy, countless attention-starved underlings, an anti-opera terrorist group, a resident ghost, and Debbie's kooky and dysfunctional friends and family, and you have an opening night that promises to genuinely thrill and chill."Both on stage and, off things will get wilder and wilder as the book progresses, until we will find our heroine hanging by a tread for her life and the curtain going down on a production which I doubt will be like anything you have ever seen. Or let's hope so!
Ding Dong the Diva's Dead is a fun romp of a mystery, that will probably expand your knowledge of the world of opera, including a look backstage that will be the most entertaining part of all.
To quote the author, Cat Melodia, which is "the nom de plume of a Seattle-based mezzo soprano and voice teacher"
“I don’t think the general public realizes how unglamorous the lives of opera singers can be—at least those of the 99.9 percent who don’t hit the big time,” Melodia says. “The world of operatic also-rans is a goldmine of humor, peopled as it is with larger-than-life characters whose insecurity, desperation and envy make them unusually good murder suspects. Most of what happens in my book is unlikely in the extreme, but there is more truth to it than you might suppose.”
Wow, who knew?? Well, after reading this entertaining book, we do!
My thanks to Tribute Books for sending me a copy of this book to review and if you are interested in reading some other thoughts on the book, head over and check out the BLOG TOUR. You might also take a peek at Cat Melodia's blog.