09 January 2014

Excerpt Thursday: Whispers of Vivaldi by Beverle Graves Myers

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Beverle Graves Myers  with her latest novel, WHISPERS OF VIVALDI. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. The author will offer a free hardcover copy of Whispers of Vivaldi to a lucky blog visitor - this giveaway is open only in the continental U.S.  Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Here's the blurb.

Venice, 1745—an age of reckless pleasures, playful artifice, and baroque excess.

An accident has reduced Tito Amato’s glorious singing voice to a husky croak. A tragedy—but also an opportunity. Tito can reinvent himself as a director of his beloved Teatro San Marco, staging operas to entertain the fickle Venetian populace. With his theater losing subscribers to a rival company headed by an unscrupulous impresario, the San Marco’s Maestro Torani charges Tito with locating the perfect opera to fill the seats in time for the opening of Carnival.

Surprisingly, a second-rate composer provides the very thing—an opera so replete with gorgeous melodies it might well have been written by Antonio Vivaldi, Venice’s greatest composer, dead these past four years. “Perhaps the Red Priest did write the opera,” whispers the gossip snaking through coffeehouses and cafés. Equally as disconcerting are the rumors swirling around Angeletto, a male soprano that Tito imports from Naples to sing the lead. Is this exquisite being truly a castrato? Or is he a female soprano engaging in a daring but lucrative masquerade? More terrible: Maestro Torani undergoes a series of increasingly vicious attacks ending in his murder. And Tito is accused of killing the distinguished maestro so he can become the principal director of the San Marco. Tito’s own life as well as the future of Teatro San Marco now depends on his skills as a sleuth.

**An Excerpt from Whispers of Vivaldi**

“You must have been born under an unfortunate star, Tito. Your destiny appears to be linked to murder. Don’t you realize that most men go through their lives without once encountering an atrocity of this sort?” Andrea’s solemn words filled the cabin of his luxurious gondola.

When I didn’t answer, his gaze left my face. He parted the curtains with one gloved finger and stared outward. Even at this late hour, the watery avenue of uninterrupted grandeur that is the Grand Canal was alive with boat traffic and the songs of their boatmen. The yellow glow from palazzo windows and the orange blaze of landing torches made shimmering zigzags on the murky water.

Eventually, I voiced the remorse that had been plaguing me for hours—ever since I’d burst into the San Marco’s corridors shouting of murder and putting an end to any hope of resuming that night’s performance. “If I’d only made it through that door to the stairwell more quickly, you might have Tedi’s killer under arrest. And Maestro Torani’s, too.”

Andrea dropped his hand; the curtain whispered shut. In the darkness, his face stood out as a pale oval. “Tito, I have nothing to convince me that the murders were committed by the same hand.”

“Tedi was about to tell me what she believed caused Torani’s death,” I protested.

“Yes, my friend, the deaths are related, but secrets and motives abound. Just consider the complications. Torani and his mistress were entangled in a desperate struggle to accomplish several things—save the reckless old punter from his gambling habit, ensure that the Teatro San Marco would continue as Venice’s flagship opera house, and retire to the mainland with some shreds of their reputation and dignity remaining.”

I sat back and surveyed him with lifted brows. He was correct, as usual.

“Besides, Tito. The murderer took one precise shot and ran. He was well away in that maze of stairs and corridors before you even crashed through the door.”

“You did search that area top to bottom.”

“As I told you—yes. My men found only empty corridors and damp cellars filled with refuse and skittering with rats.”

“They didn’t find any forgotten gate or postern? Any means of escape that the killer could have used without going back through the gaming salon?”

 “No. Tito. That crumbling pile attached to the opera house contains no doors and the few windows are merely slits. Whoever shot Tedi came through the main portion of the theater building and left the same way.” He added in a conversational tone, “Did you realize that your Teatro San Marco was built on the ruins of a monastery?”

Though he probably couldn’t see it, I shot him a scornful glance. “It is no longer my Teatro San Marco.”

“Perhaps not now.” His grave tone turned to a chuckle. “You must wait, Tito, and cultivate patience. I predict that one day you will rule the opera house just as Maestro Torani did.”

“How can you possibly believe that?” My voice grated harshly. “And how dare you laugh in the face of Tedi’s death? Whatever Devil’s bargain she made with Lorenzo Caprioli, she did it to find justice for the man she loved. Both their lives were ripped away just when they should have been resting on their well-earned laurels.”

A pale hand rose to wipe his forehead. His sigh hovered between us. “The violence that men visit on each other has become a constant in my life—such is the burden of a Messer Grande. If I didn’t allow myself a laugh, I would soon sink into melancholia.”

“Of course. Forgive me.” I bowed my head. Fate had brought my family so much grief that I should have understood that without being told.

Beverle Graves Myers is the author of the Tito Amato Mystery series and co-author (with Joanne Dobson) of Face of the Enemy, a mystery set during World War II. More information can be found on her website: www.beverlegravesmyers.com

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