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Southey, Roz - 'Chords and Discords'
Paperback: 269 pages (July 2008) Publisher: Creme de la Crime ISBN: 095570782X

This strange, but atmospheric historical mystery, is set in Newcastle in the year 1736. It is narrated by the penniless harpsichordist, concert arranger and tutor to the gentry, Charles Patterson. The wealthy people have all left the town for the season and Patterson is even more hard up than usual. To pay for his daily bread, he is forced to accept employment from an unpopular organ-builder named William Bairstowe.

Bairstowe has been receiving threatening letters, from, he does not know whom. The notes threaten to kill him in revenge for the death of a servant who died in an accident that was intended for him. Patterson is very reluctant to help Bairstowe, as he is a very loathsome man, but the pay is 20 guineas, at a time when 10 guineas was six months' salary for an harpsichordist! Bairstowe gives him 10 guineas on account of his acceptance of the job.

Patterson, with much trepidation goes off and interviews several witnesses, mainly servants and the wife of Bairstowe, until some background information starts to emerge as to why various events have been occurring. Patterson has friends who aid him in various ways and these are at different levels of society.

The author fills the book with events (which presumably are accurate) that add to the historical perspective. All the chapter headings have quotations from newspapers of the time to add authenticity. What I found less welcome was the incidence in the story of ghostly spirits being everywhere, and communicating with the human characters. This is a very unusual plot device. The story has a very unexpected ending, in a church of all places. I have to say that I found the book a bit heavy going in parts, mainly because of the author's reliance on spirits as a plot device. Apparently, in the first book (this is the author's second) Patterson discovers himself in a parallel universe peopled by spirits - this may aid one's understanding of this latter story.

CHORDS AND DISCORDS is a very unusual historical mystery, and despite the supernatural elements, I found it quite a page turner once I got going.

Terry Halligan, England
January 2009

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 16/07/2010 19:17