“The Devil’s Trill introduces a fascinating new detective to the literary scene at the musical hand of author Gerald Elias. Blind violinist Daniel Jacobus ekes out a bitter existence criticizing students and chain-smoking cigarettes. His few remaining friends scarcely see him and meet only scorn when they do. But The Grimsley Competition at Carnegie Hall draws Jacobus’ curiosity as well as his ire, and his plot to end its dominance over young violinists ends in disaster when the precious “Piccolino” Stradivarius is stolen.
There’s a history behind Jacobus, once on the brink of a brilliant future, that’s told in quiet “program-notes” style in the Prologue. There’s a mystery behind the Piccolino too, played musically in the oddly resonant Introduction, and drawn from later like a curious refrain. The story moves to Exposition, music and musicians taking the stage, suspects, bystanders, detectives and entourage; to Development, where themes come together and the truth that music is more than perfect notes reflects itself in less than perfect people; to Recapitulation, where thickened plots swirl back to reveal their secrets; and to Coda with the final truth of it all.
A reader could learn to love classical music here, or jazz if they prefer; to appreciate the difference between perfection and beauty; and to mourn the way performance gets in the way of developing skills when unformed children are forced to compete for praise. The reader might learn to love old Jacobus too, a blind man who sees while the sighted are merely distracted, somewhat reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes—who also played violin. The Devil’s Trill introduces readers to the world of competitive music, to performance and concert lore, and to well-plotted, richly-played-out mystery. The author’s second book, Danse Macabre ,should be a thrilling sequel and I’ll be looking out for it.
Disclosure: A visiting friend left a copy of this book behind for me to read and I really enjoyed it.