My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Staccato” is staccato: sharp, crisp, almost percussive–like gun shots, like a cane tapping on the floor or striking a shoulder, like light reflected off a black Porsche Targa, like the piercing cold of a Great Smoky Mountains night.
Two years into his career as a world-class concert pianist, young Nicholas Kalman finds his absent father’s journal. It’s written as a warning to Nicholas, or perhaps a confession. “Beware of this man you call, Uncle,” it says.
The uncle is Alexander, the tyrannical, club-footed, cane tapping maestro and mentor. He’s crafted the talented Nicholas into a dazzling musician who crushes the competition in every venue. He drinks. He expects perfection. He lashes out when angry.
Alexander demands unquestioning obedience from Nicholas, the cloyingly submissive second-string pupil Timothy, the imposing butler Sampte, his niece Elaine, sheriff’s deputy Steven Hawk, and everyone else who dares enter his ten thousand square foot mansion in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Deborah J. Ledford’s thriller tears through mountains and music with a steady rhythm in perfect time with the maestro Alexander’s music room metronome. Nicholas finds a his lover’s body in his Porsche. Timothy perfects his Prokofiev to steal the limelight. Sampte does what he’s ordered to do. The metronome ticks and the cane taps as the bodies pile up, as Nicholas searches for a killer and runs for his life, as Hawk investigates a grim case, as Alexander orchestrates notes and lives, as readers turn “Staccato’s” pages, quickly, crisply, sharply throughout Ledford’s Toccata-like virtuoso performance.
Tomorrow: A conversation with Pat Bertram, author of “Daughter Am I.”
Copyright (c) 2009 by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”