Dark Rhapsody: A Novel, by Helaine Mario. Oceanview Publishing. 368 pages. Hardcover $26.95.
Ms. Mario’s new book is a sequel to The Lost Concerto, and now both titles are listed as parts of the Maggie O’Shea Mystery Series. The story concerns a series of secrets and misunderstandings, each with a dangerous obstacle on the path to revelation. It’s a story about trauma, harmful memories, betrayal, and ultimately the majesty of love.
The author’s breathtakingly luxuriant prose captures the communicative emotional power of symphonic music. The plot winds through vividly rendered locales including Virginia, New York City, East Hampton, Tuscany, Rome, Vienna, Salzburg, and Provence.
Ms. Mario’s descriptions of the various settings are simply magnificent. She handles the interaction of character and scene with confidence and brilliance. She has a clear vision of the interplay between natural, man-made, and supernatural forces.
Mostly, she has a grand story, lavishly elaborated.
In the immediate aftermath of WWII, a young Austrian girl named Gisela finds a box among other containers holding gold and other Nazi-captured treasures. The box, which she hides, includes a rolled canvas marked as the property of Florence art dealer Felix Hoffman. From this opening scene, the story jumps into the present time. We are brought to a cabin in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains and introduced to the renowned pianist, Maggie O’Shea; her companion, retired Colonel Michael Beckett; and Michael’s beloved Golden Retriever – “Shiloh.”
Michael has pledged to protect Maggie from her threatening oppressor, a revenge-seeking madman named Dane, who had attacked her and injured her fingers, attempting to thwart her return to the concert stage.
Maggie suffers from blackouts that leave her unable to remember key elements in her life and nightmares that hint at truths she has repressed. Michael’s strength and dedication help alleviate her suffering. Maggie works to recover her abilities in time for the scheduled performance of an extremely difficult rhapsody.
Several scenes set in Italy develop the grotesque Dane, a fugitive disguised by botched plastic surgery, who is striving to gain control of the black market for rare, including stolen, art.
Secrets, lies, and misunderstandings have left Maggie with two major mysteries. One is to discover the truth about how her mother died. The other is to understand the reason behind an action of her father, the great conductor Finn O’Shea, who one day walked off the concert stage, stared at or through Maggie, and completely disappeared from her life. . . .
To read the full review, as it appears in the December 26, 2018 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 27 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Charlotte County editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Dark Rhapsody.