Will the real ‘Guarneri’ violin please stand up? Some say that Niccolo Paganini sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his great ability to play the violin. “His fingers were astonishingly fast and precise. He could imitate the sound of birds and other animals on the violin—sometimes he sounded like three or four violins playing at once.” In 1840, in the prologue, he was dying. He managed to hide his 1742 Guarneri violin including a valued document within the case lining under a plank of the flooring and laid a copy of the violin on the bed. He intended for his son, Achilles, to know ‘the secret.’ But by the time Achilles returned with the doctor, Niccolo was dead and the secret died with him.
The copy was placed in a museum in Genoa, presumed to be the original. Unknowingly, years later, forgers would make a copy of the copy. Intrigued yet? Oh, but there’s more. It’s now 2010 and a violinist is murdered just before he was able to play the copy to ‘break it in’ so that it would not sound like a new violin. That’s where FBI Special Agent Chris Clarke and his partner Carlos (Chubbs) Gonzales come in and the mystery takes off.
This was a different type of suspenseful read. The protagonist is actually Chris Clarke, but he didn’t make his first appearance until chapter 11. He is described as “… a very simple man with a straight-ahead view of life. He did not own an I-pod, preferring the roar of the wind upon the waves when he strolled along the beach.” For such a short novel (174 pages), it had many characters for the reader to wade through. I did enjoy the characters of both Clark and Gonzales, but I do feel they could have been fleshed out more. They say to write what you know and Art Johnson, as a highly regarded musician for better than forty years, has done just that. This is his debut novel. Rating: 3 out of 5.