A Chorus of Detectives
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.

Met Chorus 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:
"This time, someone is out to bump off the entire chorus -- no mean feat when the chorus numbers 140 people....As zippy and entertaining as A Cadenza for Caruso and Prima Donna at Large."

2. Cape Cod Times:
"The star singers form teams to play detective. In no time, they are bumping into each other and accusing each other of being the murderer. ...Author Barbara Paul knows music, the people who make it, and the social history of the time."

3. The New York Times
"Ms. Paul has her facts and also her gossip down cold; there are very few things a historian of opera will want to quibble with....And the musical stuff is enchanting."

4. Denver Post
"As plots go, this one is quite ingenious, mixing as it does a maniacal scheme directed at the Met Opera chorus with the growing threat of anarchists following World War I....The ending is a real surprise, and the atmosphere wonderfully theatrical -- in all senses of the word."


N.Y.: St. Martin's Press, 1987, ISBN 0-312-00576-8
N.Y.: Performing Arts Book Club, 1987
Roslyn, N.Y.: Detective Book Club, 1988
N.Y.: New American Library, 1988, ISBN 0-451-15320-0

Opera Page Page created June 27, 1995; last updated June 8, 2000. Home