Monday, October 10, 2011

Ding Dong the Diva’s Dead

Cat Melodia
Camel Press (2011)
ISBN 9781603818070
Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Novel
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views

I like proverbs and old sayings of all kinds. Very often I even try and live by what they tell us, and in such endeavors I could be more or less successful. Here is one of my favorite ones: "Don't judge the book by its cover." And yes, this is one that I try to follow as often as possible. When it comes to "Ding Dong the Diva's Dead," that was truly a good decision. If I judged this particular book by its cover, I would have never opened it. The slightly cartoon-like cover showed a voodoo-doll-crossed-with-an-inflatable-object-from-the-adult-store depiction of a diva and a cast of sinister looking people. The title with its weird yellow script and the shadowed sub-title did little to make me any more interested in the story. But I decided to be brave, and I opened the book on a randomly selected page. After the first couple of sentences I was giggling uncontrollably, deciding to start it from the beginning, as it should be read. Granted, being fluent in more than one language certainly helped me to catch some of the well-placed barbs, but even without that I would have found the book to be an absolute delight.

Deborah de Lille is an opera singer. Just not of the Maria Callas caliber. So she is more than thrilled when her agent secures her a minor role with a small town opera company in Ville d'Aurore, an idyllic looking and sounding setting. The production? Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffman," a rather spooky opera even in its classical form, but even more so under the direction of Corabelle Swift, the stage director with peculiar ideas on how to make it more contemporary and relevant. When one adds three leading ladies with huge egos, an assorted bunch of cocky males, a suspicious death of a prominent singer, and various creepy incidents to the mix, Debbie certainly has a lot to worry about. Who is out to get her? And more importantly – why?

The "Ding Dong the Diva's Dead" was a well-paced and utterly charming mystery. Its cast of characters, although large enough to be difficult to keep track of, was extraordinarily charming, even when it came to the villains. The dialogue, the story line, the twists and turns, author's obvious insider knowledge of all opera related things and her wicked sense of humor kept me turning the pages until I finished reading the story late the same day. My favorite part? It would have to be some of the names. Kopfschlager, Perlmutter, Mannschliesser and Poubelle?  Chapeau, Madame Melodia, and "Brava!" for sure.

I would recommend "Ding Dong the Diva's Dead" to any lover of unpredictable mysteries with a hefty dose of intelligent humor. If this person happens to be an opera lover, even better - but I certainly do not believe love of opera would limit the enjoyment of this clever whodunit.