A Maggie O’Shea Mystery #3
Oceanview Publishing, September 2021
Third in Helaine Mario’s Maggie O’Shea series, Shadow Music, is a thrilling and complex novel of art, music, love, betrayal, and murder. As the novel begins, in 1985, two women are attempting to escape from Communist controlled Hungary into Austria taking with them the infant daughter of one of them, and a priceless Van Gogh painting which has been rumored to exist for many years but which few have actually seen. Nearly across the border they are seen by soldiers who fire at them, hitting one woman. The other escapes with the baby. The story then moves to present day where renowned pianist Maggie O’Shea is playing for guests of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. As she ends her concert, she is approached by Yuri Belankov who introduces himself as an ex-violinist from St. Petersburg, Russia and asks Maggie to solo with a friend’s orchestra which is a Russian project to give Russian musicians their chance to play professionally along with musicians from other countries. Making no commitment, Maggie agrees to meet the orchestra’s conductor in London to discuss the matter.
In London Maggie meets the conductor, Valentin Zharkov, and agrees to think about his invitation. Shortly after their meeting Maggie, whose husband died shortly after he interviewed a nun who supposedly had information about the lost Van Gogh, begins to experience problems – her shop is ransacked, and she is sure she is being followed which is terrifying. She then travels to a cabin in a remote location where her new lover, a retired Colonel, runs a ranch where disabled and injured soldiers can go to live and work with horses and dogs as they recover from their war wounds – both physical and emotional. Meanwhile, the Colonel (Michael Beckett) has taken on the task of finding the teenage grandson of his best friend who died in war and whose daughter was recently murdered, apparently because the two Russians later joined by a third, Nikolai Kirov, believed she knew the location of the lost Van Gogh but wouldn’t give it up. Having found the grandson Michael tries to convince him to go to Michael’s ranch where he will be safe, but the teenager is not willing, though he does agree to go temporarily.
The rest of the novel focuses on the people involved in either trying to obtain or protect the Van Gogh. The action is nearly non-stop, there are several surprises some of which are truly not obvious, and which will draw you in and not let you go. The novel is written in short chapters which explore the point of view of several characters. My one (minor) complaint about this novel is that the way some of the characters speak often does not sound the way people actually speak but that is a small quibble. I liked this novel a lot and I recommend it highly.
Reviewed by Melinda Drew, October 2021.