Requiem for a Mezzo: a Daisy Dalrymple Mystery (Kensington mystery)

Requiem for a Mezzo - Carola Dunn 3-3.5 starsYou can count on the Daisy Dalrymple series to contain interesting and varied characters in the 1920s, post-WWI Britain era - aristocrats, middle class, servants, and just about everyone "in-between". They're solid books, easy to read, not too taxing on the brain, and generally provide the reader with all the necessary clues to solve the mystery. Sometimes, the clues come early and the murderer is obvious - as in this book. But they're delightful reads, mostly because of the main characters: Daisy (the "Honorable"), Chief Detective Inspector Alec Fletcher (a love interest for Daisy), Lucy (Daisy's friend and flat-mate), Philip Petrie (childhood friend), and Alec's fellow Scotland Yard men: Sergeant Tripe and Ernie Piper.In this book, Alec and Daisy are out on a date, attending a matinee performance of an opera, Verdi's Requiem, when the Mezzo-Soprano, Daisy's next-door neighbor, Bettina (Elizabeth "Betsy") Westlea (aka Mrs. Roger Abernathy) dies on-stage, just before one of her big solo parts. Bettina had just taken a drink of her wine, when she sputtered and choked, and then fell. The bitter smell of almonds was everywhere. But was it truly cyanide poisoning? Because Bettina drank ratafia, a British "lady's" liquer made from the same peach and almond pits as cyanide and with the distinct almond odor and flavor. And who killed Bettina? Her downtrod sister, Muriel, who was in the Chorus - never the golden-haired, beautiful favorite like her sister, Muriel was expected to take care of her sister by her parents and her sister. She saw to Bettina's every need, and even lived with Bettina and her husband, Roger, in London as a sort of housekeeper. Bettina had interfered constantly in Muriel's life, selfishly claiming every ounce of attention and glory. And when Yacov Levich, a Russian Jew who plays the violin in the orchestra, started paying attention to Muriel, Bettina threatened to tell their parents, effectively putting an end to any hopes Muriel might have had of a relationship.Was it her sainted husband, Roger Abernathy? Bettina only married the older man because he was her ticket out of Hampshire -- he offered marriage and vocal lessons... and possible connections. But Roger wasn't young, gorgeous, or rich. And he had a heart condition. And he knew of Bettina's many love affairs. Did he really love her enough to overlook those infidelities and the crass, cruel way she treated him? Bettina even left all her worldly goods to her sister Muriel, not her husband - another slap in Roger's face?Was it Yacov, trying to make the way for himself with Muriel?Was it one of Bettina's many former or current lovers? Gower, the tenor, who usually preferred the exotic foreign beauties, but chose Bettina and promised to use his influence to push her career farther and higher? Mrs. Gower, who put up with foreign mistresses, because Mr. Gower always came back to her and the husband at the end of the season; was she afraid that the British Mezzo-Soprano would steal her husband away for good? The Ukrainian bass, Marachenko, who had given Bettina a fortune in smuggled Russian jewels -- the same man she'd publicly slapped and called names, shaming and embarassing him? Was it the conductor, Cochrane? He showed up to her house weekly... but it wasn't for Bettina, it was for Oliva Blaise, taking voice lessons with Roger. Bettina threatened to reveal their affair to Mrs. Cochrane. Did Cochrane kill her to prevent her from tattling? Or did Olivia try to protect her lover? Or was Olivia trying to eliminate her competition? After all, Olivia was to have the Mezzo-Soprano role before Bettina blackmailed her way into it. Or was it Mrs. Cochrane, the older, rich woman whom Cochrane married for position and money? Mrs. C is almost another Lady MacBeth, willing to do whatever it took to further her husband's career and secure a baronetcy or knighthood for him.And will Daisy and Alec ever have a real date without a murder interfering?--------------There is always a large and varied cast of characters in these books, and sometimes it takes a bit to sort out who is whom. This book is no exception. It's interesting to watch Alec walk the tightrope between professional and personal... see him struggle with Daisy being involved in his murder investigations, yet know that he can rely on her to find info and help get to the truth. Daisy is also walking her own tightrope, falling for Alec but dealing with the lines between the classes, somewhat blurred by the war, and yet firm in the minds of many; upper-class aristocrats and middle-class policemen (however educated) don't mix socially or personally.Good read!