Thursday, February 20, 2020

My Cup of Tea: A Review by James W. Ziskin

Review an African-American author’s work that I love.

From Jim

I’m a sucker for well-written stories, no matter the genre. Add an interesting locale and a rich cast of characters, and I’m hooked. DEATH IN D MINOR, by Alexia Gordon, hits all the notes for me.

I met Alexia at the Left Coast Crime conference in Honolulu in 2017 when she was nominated for Best Debut Mystery Novel for MURDER IN G MAJOR. Spoiler alert: she won. That same year she was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First. Alexia is one of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet, at writers’ conferences, on airplanes, or in hospitals. Anywhere, for that matter. She’s a doctor by day, mystery writer by night, and a great judge of liquor when off duty. As impressive as her 80-proof credentials are, that’s not why I admire her most. Rather, it’s her Gethsemane Brown series from Henery Press. This four-book series featuring the take-no-prisoners classical musician takes place in Ireland. (The fifth book comes out March 24, 2020.) The African-American heroine has been stranded on the Emerald Isle due to a series of unfortunate events, but she makes the best of the situation by teaching music in a boys’ school and solving murders with a little help from some (dead) friends. Yes, this series features ghosts. And before you jump to to conclusions, I gotta tell you that it works. It just works. Think THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR meets Dorothy Sayers. The supernatural angle brings charm to the books without falling prey to frivolity.

I recently read the second book in this engaging series, DEATH IN D MINOR, and I loved it, as I did the first, MURDER IN G MAJOR. Granted, I’m a fan of music, but that wasn’t the only appeal. The artistic and musical references; the wonderful cast of characters, rogues, peelers, and potential love interests; suspects; and Gethsemane herself all contribute to the rich tapestry of DEATH IN D MINOR. There are tapestries, too, by the way.

Here’s the elevator pitch: Gethsemane strikes a deal with shadowy investigators to go undercover as a musician at a charity event to snoop for evidence linking art collectors to a forgery/theft/insurance fraud scheme. In exchange for her help, the authorities “might” clear her visiting brother-in-law of charges of theft.

The star, the sine qua non of this delightful book and series is, of course, Dr. Gethsemane Brown. A musical genius from Virginia, she has somehow landed in Ireland in the cottage of the late composer and ghost, Eamon McCarthy. In the first book of the series, the doctor and the ghost forge a memorable friendship and collaboration as Gethsemane clears the late McCarthy of the murder of his wife twenty-five years after the fact. But the supernatural element doesn’t end with MURDER IN G MAJOR. Gethsemane conjures a new ghost in DEATH IN D MINOR, a lovable eighteenth-century sea captain in search of redemption. Their banter is priceless, and the friendship forms one of the most endearing charms of this book.

Make no mistake, though. Alexia Gordon’s books are chock full of fascinating information about music, art, and history. The writing is so smooth and rhythmical that you know from page one that you’re in the hands of a masterful storyteller.

I’ve read harder-boiled books. And I’ve read cozier ones, too. I’ve learned that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, not in the genre classification. Alexia Gordon’s DEATH IN D MINOR is one book I’ll think about for a long time. I’m looking forward to more Gethsemane very soon.

Purchase link:m


Susan C Shea said...

I've been meaning for ages to read her novels - thanks for the reminder for me to get going immediately!

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