Music and Musicians in Mystery: A Bibliography

Article excerpt

After a lifetime of living in the shadow (and in the service) of others--first my pianist father and then my conductor husband--I had found myself emerging, at the age of forty-eight, into a Phoebe Mullins I hardly recognized. A person who could function very nicely on her own, thank you. A person who could hold down a job and drive a car. Whose years of dealing with overwrought artists, their public, managers, and hangers-on had, it seemed, developed in her talents she hadn't fully appreciated. I had, over the course of that summer, run a complicated business office; been the recipient of so many highly personal confidences that I had finally to assume I was good at it; served as a box-office manager, program designer, stage manager; been romantically pursued by a quite attractive cop; solved a murder. (1)

Why do people read mysteries? The authors of The Mystery Readers' Advisory suggest several reasons. (2) Among them is the idea that good triumphs over evil: the criminals are caught and receive their just punishment. Structure may also play a role: simply stated, mysteries are organized predictably--crime engenders investigation which begets solution. And people enjoy solving puzzles: the authors theorize this is a reason the genre is popular with librarians. Some readers are attracted to the characters, and how they develop through a series of novels. The locales or settings chosen by mystery writers may attract some readers. Finally, mysteries usually are just good stories.

In his articles "Crime Fiction and Music" and "Music in English Detective Fiction: A Few Notes," Philip Scowcroft remarks upon the associations between music and literature. (3) His comments parallel my own journey toward music mysteries. Initially, my primary focus was on any fiction involving representations of musicians. Consider Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, who played the piano "a little," E. M. Forster's discontented pianist Lucy Honeychurch in A Room with a View, the appearance of Beethoven's music in Forster's Howard's End, or the unsettled pianist Rachel Vinrace in Virginia Woolf's A Voyage Out. Music and musicians have made their way into a variety of fiction genres, including the mystery. The earliest, by Du Boisgobey, originally published in 1880, is the first I have located so far. From Phoebe Mullins and her associations with opera productions in Karen Sturges's mysteries to Bill Moody's mysteries involving jazz musicians, mystery authors clearly are intrigued by music and musicians and how they can be incorporated into the genre. (4)

My own interest in musicians and mysteries developed shortly after the appearance of the Dorothy-L electronic discussion group, which was established more than ten years ago for fans of mysteries. Among the members were several fans of music mysteries, who generously added to the list of titles I had already begun to assemble. The project was put aside until the March 2002 discussion of music mysteries on MLA-L, the music library electronic discussion list.

The following bibliography of music mysteries is by no means comprehensive. Attempting to amass a list of all mysteries involving music could easily be not only a long-term occupation but a never-ending one as well. Thus, with my thanks to many who suggested titles on MLA-L, the following bibliography includes titles published through 2002 in the following genres: amateur sleuth, private investigator, historical, espionage, and police procedural. I have read (and reread) most of the titles, and skimmed the rest. I have included selected titles found in Scowcroft's article, and in the extensive list of musical fiction assembled by John Gibbs, (5) but I have not reproduced those lists. Many of these mysteries have been published in multiple editions by two or more publishers in both the United States and the United Kingdom; the earliest American imprint is preferred in this listing. Some have appeared under more than one title, and in these cases multiple titles are listed. …