Murder to Music by Margaret Newman

‘There doesn’t seem to be much relationship between music and the ordinary world, does there?’

The Metropolitana Choir in London has been preparing for its debut performance of a composition, a mass composed by its ageing director, Evan Tredegar. Delia Jones is a member of the choir, and her boyfriend Detective-Superintendent Simon Hudson, is looking forward to the performance.

The performance is scheduled for the Festival Hall on December the 19th and the BBC will broadcast it.  There is a lot to be done to get ready, including engaging a suitable tenor. The Committee has its hands full.

On the night of the performance, Evan Tredegar (the composer of the mass, the conductor of the choral society and known as ‘The Old Man) is said to be ill.  Owen Burr, his assistant, conducts.  And, just as the performance concludes, Owen Burr drops dead.  He was murdered.

Who killed Owen Burr, and why?  Detective-Superintendent Hudson finds himself in an awkward position.  He is actually on the scene, and there is no shortage of suspects, including Delia.  As D-S Hudson investigates, he finds that the Metropolitana’s Committee is full of grudges, rivalries, and suspicions.  Owen Burr may have been a prickly character who rubbed many people the wrong way, but murder?  But this is the beginning of a quite complicated murder mystery.  Others will die before the case is solved.

This novel was first published in 1959 and touches on several themes (including mental health issues and homosexuality) which would have generally been unmentionable at the time.  These issues are sympathetically handled and while they form part of the story, do not overwhelm it.  Several secrets will be uncovered as D-S Hudson investigates.

I found this to be an entertaining and unputdownable murder mystery.  It is well-written and has contains delightful flashes of humour. It was Margaret Newman’s first novel.  Margaret Potter (née Newman) (1926-1998) wrote more than 50 novels and many short stories under several pseudonyms.  I will be looking to read more of her work.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Agora Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith