All together, now...
This one was the hardest of the three to write.
The time is 1920 and the war is over, but the world is not suddenly a better place in which to live. New York is crowded with immigrants, veterans, refugees, anarchists. I wanted to catch that feeling of too-many-people -- in the streets, in the restaurants, backstage at the Met. As a result, A Chorus of Detectives has the largest cast of characters of any book I had yet written.
So I spent a lot of time juggling all these characters and trying to make each one memorable enough that the reader could keep track of them. I couldn't just say there were too many people; I had to show it.
In the story, the Metropolitan Opera chorus has become quarrelsome and unruly and is in danger of falling apart. The choristers are divided into factions along national lines; the war may be over, but the wounds haven't even begun to heal. Then someone starts killing the members of the chorus, one by one.
Guards are posted backstage, but still the killings continue. The police don't even have a list of suspects. Horrified at what's happening, six people band together to try to get at the bottom of the trouble -- Caruso, Farrar, three other singers, and the Met's general manager. Six amateur detectives, all looking for the same killer. They literally don't have a clue.
In spite of the many comedy scenes I put in this book, there's a note of sadness in the story. Historically, Caruso was ill, Farrar's voice was going, other significant things were less than they once were. All of that lends an end-of-an-era quality to the novel -- inevitable, I suppose, in any story set during changing times.
1. Chicago Sun-Times:
2. Cape Cod Times:
3. The New York Times
4. Denver Post
N.Y.: St. Martin's Press, 1987, ISBN 0-312-00576-8
Page created June 27, 1995; last updated June 8, 2000.