The Rainaldi Quartet
by Paul Adam
You expect the momentous events in life to provide some kind of warning. You expect to have some presage of what's about to happen, to be prepared for it when it hits you. But I wasn't prepared. None of us was. - Paul Adam, The Rainaldi Quartet
This mystery involves a valuable violin and multiple murders in contemporary Italy.
Shortly after playing a short composition by Beethoven with his friends Tomaso Rainaldi, a retired professional musician and sometime violin teacher, and Antonio Guastafeste, a local detective; Gianni Castiglione, an elderly luthier (that is, a craftsman of stringed instruments), receives a suspicious call at his Lombardy countryside home from Rainaldi’s wife Clara. His friend hasn’t come home and he is soon found stabbed near his abandoned car. Guastafeste, a generation younger than narrator Castiglione or Rainaldi, returns when he’s assigned to the case. Because Castiglione’s technical knowledge makes him useful as a valuable resource, he accompanies Guastafeste on his investigation, which begins with Venetian violin collector Dottor Forlani. The curious collector lives in squalor but spends a small fortune on instruments. They learn that Rainaldi had contacted Forlani about acquiring a valuable violin known as the “Messiah’s Sister.” Not long after their visit, Forlani is also murdered by a nefarious and mysterious persona as ruthless as he is determined. The mystery’s trail, which includes old letters and older tombs, leads Gianni through a network of auction houses and black-market dealings across Italy and western Europe, reaching its denouement at Casale Monferrato, the cement capital of Italy.
Well-paced storytelling perfectly suits the subtle pleasures of this tale. The author offers plenty of European history and an immersion in a subculture of the classical music world as well as a pleasant mystery.