Third in her series of Baroque mysteries, Beverle Graves Myers’s Cruel Music finds Venetian castrato Tito Amato involved in the machinations to secure votes for a successor to Pope Clement XII, who is on his deathbed. Tito is coerced by a wealthy Venetian family into going “under cover” in the home of the epicurean cardinal Fabiani, whose support of their candidate is critical to ultimate success.
The murder of a pretty young maid in the Fabiani household soon after his arrival leads Tito to suspect that all is not as it appears. The mystery unfolds in a series of twists and turns that read more like a modern thriller than a true historical, despite many well-researched details of the musical life at the time. Myers’ somewhat predictable characters not only lapse into modern colloquialisms, but also profess occasionally anachronistic opinions and beliefs, particularly about religion.
That said, this was still a fast-paced and satisfying mystery, spiced up with witchcraft and illicit romance. Cruel Music should appeal to those who like their whodunits to have a historical twist.