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Broken Harmony

May 22, 2008

Just finished Roz Southey‘s delightful debut, ‘Broken Harmony.’ It’s a mystery tale set amongst the musicians of 18th-century Newcastle upon Tyne. Naturally, these purveyors of artistic joy are riddled with rivalries and petty jealousies, and before long their clashes lead to more sinister goings-on. To add to their troubles, the whole town is whispering with spirits who are in a position to know useful information but are annoyingly reluctant to part with it.

Anyone remotely involved with the making of music will recognise the characters with a wry smile – particularly the amateur ‘who bit his lip in concentration as he carefully played every note just fractionally flat.’ Hm. I fear I have not only met, but also been that person on several occasions…

There’s a familiar tension between the underpaid and under-appreciated professional who finally snaps, ‘You can’t even read music!’ and the enthusiast who retorts, ‘Who needs to? Music’s in your hands, and in your head, and in your heart!’

Despite the freshness of the musicians’ plights, the historical setting is utterly convincing – thus proving the value of ‘write what you know’ – Southey is a musicologist and the book is set in her local area.

There’s a fine twist at the end, too. I didn’t see it coming, but it’s well set up and makes perfect sense of what has gone before.

Roz Southey is one of the authors who will be appearing at Crimefest in a couple of weeks’ time.

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One comment

  1. Roz Southey spoke on a panel at the Historical Novels Society Conference in April. She sounded really interesting and your review made me wish I’d bought her novel there, especially with it being set in Newcastle, home of my alma mater, birthplace of my husband, and all. I’ll look out for it anyway. I bought the The Unquiet Heart set in postwar Berlin, the book Creme de la Crime was launching at the conference. The lady who runs Creme de la Crime gave a super talk on the set-up and operation of her company.



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