DANSE MACABRE is the second book in the series featuring blind violin teacher and reluctant member of the human race, Daniel Jacobus. In this book, Daniel has almost willingly journeyed from the Berkshires in Massachusetts to Carnegie Hall in order to attend the farewell concert of fabled violinist Rene Allard. Allard is retiring to his native France and Jacobus, more or less happily, agrees to attend a private party at Allard’s home after the concert.
Accompanied by his best friend, Nathaniel Williams, and his student, Yumi Shinagawa, Daniel arrives at the Bonderman Building to learn that Allard has been murdered in a manner both grotesque and grisly. Inspector Malachi, the investigator in Daniel’s previous brush with the law, is playing the same role in the death of Rene Allard. Daniel was a frequent visitor to the Bonderman Building when he was active in the classical music world. Daniel, Nathaniel, and Yumi decide to accompany Inspector Malachi to talk with Sigmund Gottfried, the elevator operator who found Allard’s body. Ziggy was a fixture of the building, even living in the basement, and Daniel and his friends find him distraught over the death of the Maestro. Before they have finished consoling Ziggy, a witness comes forward and names the killer.
B’Tower, a young violin virtuoso who was a huge crossover hit, is identified as the killer, seen standing over Allard’s body with blood on his hands. At the trial, Daniel is called as a character witness for Allard and by the time Daniel and the press are finished, Allard is shown to be a cross between Mother Theresa and Gandhi. B’Tower, birth name Shelby Freeman, Jr., is cast as the jealous musician who, knowing he can never be as good as Allard, attacks him in a jealous rage. In record time, B’Tower is found guilty and sentenced to death.
A week before the scheduled execution, B’Tower’s attorney is desperate. Despite the conviction, the prosecution could never show how Allard was murdered and the murder weapon was never found. Rosenthal plays on Daniel’s sympathies and his experience as an unjustly accused murder suspect. Daniel remembers all too well how a man can be made to look guilty even when he is innocent. Although B’Tower has ordered his lawyers to cease pursuing an appeal, Daniel decides that he has an obligation to take another look at the man he helped convict and that means he has to take another look at Rene Allard.
As Daniel, Nathaniel, and Yumi examine the life of Allard the man, rather than the icon, they discover someone quite different from his public persona. Fraud, greed, envy, and long-buried sins are revealed; secrets are exposed. And the reader even learns about differences in naming musical notes.
Gerald Elias has made Daniel more likable, more human in this second book. Daniel even displays a sense of humor. He and his friends are eating at a French bistro in Salt Lake City. “Maurice Chevalier was now singing ‘Thank Heaven for Little Girls.’ Jacobus called the waiter over and asked if they could play some Marcel Marceau. The waiter said he would ask.”
Jacobus grows on the reader; he is a very different kind of hero. The author, a well-respected musician, teaches the reader about the violin, classical music, and the world of those who reach the upper levels of that world, making the information a necessary and entertaining part of the story. I am looking forward to the further adventures of Daniel and his band of enablers, Nathaniel, Yumi, and even Inspector Malachi, the nice people who help the not very nice Daniel function in the world outside his cabin in the woods.