Today, I'm most excited to be interviewing a mystery book in the Regency Era
The Doppleganger's Dance by Libi Astaire
Peep Rep: Hold on. You can't interview your own book!
Liza: I'm not! This is not my book. I've got the Victorian era.
Peep Rep: But the book refers to Sherlock Holmes. How do I know for sure this is not your book and you're just dragging your favorite author (Jane Austen) up a half century?
Liza: Look at the cover. Would I ever create something so tasteful and yet inviting?
Peep Rep: Good point. I'll send for the book.
Ah. Here it comes now.
Liza: Welcome The Doppelganger's Dance, may I call you Dop?
Book: What? Good heavens, NO! That sounds like a shortened version of the word 'DollyMop' and I, sir, am no lady of the street!
Liza: I think you need glasses, because I'm not a sir.
Book: I spoke to the fellow behind you laughing himself into a convulsion.
Liza: Oh, that's Peep Rep. You can ignore him entirely. He's just here to annoy me. I do understand your objection to Dop. How about Dance? And before you ask for your full title, I'm a terrible speller so we need to keep names short.
Dance: Call me Dance then.
Excellent. Let's move on to the interview...
The Doppelganger’s Dance:
A Cozy Regency Mystery
Liza: It is a lovely cover.
Dance: Thank you.
Liza: First things first. What is Sherlock Holmes doing in the Regency era? I'm not complaining, mind you. My character Xavier Thorn would love for the fellow to disappear in the past. Clients are constantly calling Mr. Holmes.
Dance: It's not THE Sherlock Holmes. In fact, the sleuth's name is Ezra Melamed and the lady who writes of his adventures is Miss Rebecca Lyon.
Liza: Yes, of course. It all makes sense now. So tell me about this book.
Dance: Well a crime wave has been sweeping through the early 19th century London's Jewish community.
Liza: Do they call on the services of Scotland Yard?
Dance: No. If they had paid a morning call to Scotland Yard, no one would have been at home since it hadn’t been created yet. In those days, you were pretty much on your own, so people in the community seek the help of wealthy-widower-turned-sleuth Ezra Melamed.
Liza: And where does the girl come in?
Dance: Miss Rebecca Lyon, a young lady not quite at the marriageable age, is an aspiring author who takes on the “job” of recording Melamed’s cases for posterity.
Liza: Excellent. Is this book one?
Dance: No. This is book four.
Liza: Will you come back with your buddies books one, two and three?
Liza: Sorry. Please proceed.
Dance: David Salomon, a young violinist and composer, has left New York to find fame and fortune in Regency London.
Liza: Good. Does everything go well for him?
Dance: Unfortunately, no. Someone is stealing and publishing his compositions before he can perform them and soon he is the laughingstock of the beau monde that he had hoped to conquer.
Liza: But how are they doing that? Does he have any friends he can use to watch his rooms day and night?
Dance: He has few friends and even fewer resources.
Liza: Then what will he do?
Dance: He turns to Ezra Melamed for help with finding the thief.
Liza: Good! Because I want to find out who would wish to harm a young stranger. The boy just arrived. Who would have reason to destroy his name and reputation?
Dance: Excellent questions. The deeper Mr. Melamed looks into the violinist’s story the more jarring notes he finds.
Liza: What exactly does that mean?
Dance: It means The Doppelganger’s Dance will be one of the most discomposing mysteries of his career.
Liza: Just so you know, when I interview a book, especially one that sounds this good, I want clear answers to my questions, not jarring notes and discomposing mysteries. Now open your cover and allow me to read an excerpt.
Dance: My apologies, please be gentle with my binding.
REBECCA STARED UNHAPPILY at her reflection in the mirror. “I do wish we had known beforehand that there was going to be a concert. I would have brought my nicer hair ribbons with me.”
Harriet, who was already dressed, pinned down another curl on the side of her friend’s head. “I am surprised there was not more selection at the shop we visited this afternoon,” she said, by way of consolation.
“It was not the fault of the selection, Harriet. I do not wish to speak disrespectfully about my father, but I do not think a man, even the most generous of men, can ever properly understand that a young lady can never have too many hair ribbons.”
Rebecca sighed. Her father usually did not quibble over the price of a ribbon. But this afternoon, after he had learned that the ribbon was being bought specifically for the concert, he became unaccountably irritable and refused the purchase. She would therefore have to compensate for the loss with extra curls and she only hoped that she, who was from London, would not disgrace her city in front of the ladies of Leeds.
Fortunately, by the time they reached the concert hall Rebecca, who had never been to a public concert, was much too excited about the event to think about how she looked. Their party was seated with Mrs. Salomon, and so they had an excellent view of the stage, where the musical instruments had already been arranged. The evening promised to be a great financial success, since the hall was completely filled with ladies dressed in their finest gowns and jewels, accompanied by their husbands and sons, who were also smartly attired.
Rebecca thought to count the number of candles that illuminated the room—she had never seen so many before—but gave up when the musicians took their places. To her surprise, Mr. Salomon was not there. Since Mrs. Salomon did not appear to be perturbed by the absence of her son, Rebecca—who was a novice in the mysteries of the grand entrance—assumed that there was nothing seriously amiss.
The program began with the Clementi Sonatina, a piece that Rebecca was familiar with. Like most young ladies, she had been instructed in the art of the pianoforte; like many, if the real truth were to be told, she had given her instructors more grief than pleasure. It was not the fault of the young lady, of course, at least not in her opinion. In far too many compositions there were so many musical notes on a page that it was nearly impossible to keep track of them all; and during an especially difficult passage, composers did have a distressing tendency to change their minds about whether or not to flat the B or sharp the C.
Tonight, though, it was not she who must do battle with Mr. Clementi and his Sonatina. She was free to watch the pianoforte player, which she did with pleasure since she had never before seen ten human fingers fly about the keyboard at such an amazing speed.
During the brief interval between the second and final movement, she and Harriet whispered their thoughts about the playing so far, both agreeing that it was wonderfully quick and lively. Then the first notes of the Rondo were sounded. Rebecca turned with wonder at the slow rhythm of the opening notes. For a moment, she worried that the musician seated at the pianoforte had taken ill.
She was not alone. From the sound of the murmurings, it seemed that everyone in the audience feared that something had gone wrong. Mr. Grimm gave a quick glance in the direction of the ladies and gentlemen. Rebecca noticed that his lips began to curl into a sort of sardonic smile.
And then she heard it. A sweetly plaintive note, rising from somewhere in the darkness at the back of the stage—a sound that seemed to come from a place that was not in this world. One heavenly note followed after another, and then the player began to slowly emerge from the shadows.
It was Mr. Salomon—for who else could it be playing the violin?—and yet it was not he. Rebecca could not find words to adequately explain the phenomenon. She thought she knew the Mr. Salomon that she had observed seated at the Deares’ supper table: a young man with proper, albeit somewhat reserved manners, who might be considered handsome if a person’s taste ran to chestnut-colored hair that was a little too long and a complexion that was a little too pale. This person standing on the stage seemed not to be a man, but music itself. His entire body bended and swayed in graceful movement, as each wistful note of the Rondo’s melody was magnificently revealed by the unexpected slower tempo.
Gentlemen raised their quizzing glasses to their eyes and ladies fluttered their fans as the initial murmurings of disapproval gave way to excited whispers of pleasure. The whispering soon faded into silence as all were transported willingly by the elegant player to the Kingdom of Song. The sweet longing of the opening refrain was repeated, and then it dissolved into something more passionate—a dazzling crescendo, an outpouring of musical fire. One woman fainted, overcome by emotion. Another followed. They were left to revive on their own, without their vials of hartshorn, which remained in their reticules, for no one could tear away their eyes from the mesmerizing musician and his enchanted violin.
Then the final note sounded, poignant and plaintive.
Slowly, Mr. Salomon lowered his violin. Slowly, the ladies and gentlemen returned to life. Then there was music of a different kind, the thunderous applause and cheers of the crowd. Mr. Salomon acknowledged the adulation with a graceful bow and turned to salute the other players. Only one did not return the gesture, Mr. Grimm, whose face was a perfect reflection of his name.
“He must take care of the receipts and pay the players,” said Mrs. Salomon, explaining her son’s absence after the performance, as the group waited for their carriages. “A concert is much more than what you see on the stage.”
“And that was exceptional,” said Mr. Lyon, who wished to make up for his past abruptness now that he had seen with his own eyes that David Salomon was a true artist.
“I think I liked Mr. Salomon’s own composition the best,” said Rebecca.
“Yes, it is wonderful,” replied Mrs. Salomon. “Of course, that piano player made a muddle of the Adagio, but what can one do? I don’t think too many people noticed.”
“Is the score available for purchase?” asked Harriet.
“That is one of the business matters we must apply ourselves to when we reach London, finding a publisher.”
“I assume Mr. Melamed will be able to help you with that,” said Mr. Franks.
Mrs. Salomon smiled. “Do you think so? It would be wonderful if David could receive help with establishing himself. He is quite clever at business, not at all like his mother in that area, but I begrudge every mundane act that takes him away from his art.”
Their carriages arrived and soon they were on their way to the Deares’ home, for the final night before the entire party’s return to London.
A man dressed in shabby clothes watched them go, and then he turned into the dark alleyway. He already knew that there was a back entrance to the building—he had scouted out the area before the concert—and he correctly surmised that at the present hour the entrance would be unattended. He entered the building and noiselessly slipped down a corridor which led to a still brightly-lit room. Inside the room, the treasurer of the Leeds Musical Society, Mr. Miller, was counting out the proceeds of the concert’s ticket sales. The shabbily dressed man did not enter the room. Instead, he found a spot where he could see and hear without being seen or heard himself.
“A very successful evening, Mr. Salomon,” remarked Mr. Miller, as he straightened the columns of shiny coins. “Should your path ever bring you back to Leeds, you will be very welcome, I am sure.”
David Salomon glanced at the other musicians. Despite the concert’s success, it seemed that the treasurer’s sentiment was a minority opinion. Yet he knew that, as the organizer of the evening, he should end the venture with a few words of praise for each of the musicians. Therefore, as each man stepped forward to receive his pay he forced himself to recall some musical phrase that the player had executed well.
When it was the turn of Mr. Grimm to receive his money, Mr. Salomon hesitated. The animosity between them had been too bitter to be sweetened by a few meaningless words. He therefore said, “If we should meet again, sir, I hope it will be a more agreeable experience for both of us.”
Mr. Grimm pocketed his money and placed his hat on his greying head. “I very much hope there will not be a second meeting, Mr. Salomon. I was brought up to always remember that the player is the faithful servant of the composer. He must never trample upon a composition’s intended tempo just to make a shameless exhibition of himself—and make a few foolish women faint. Good night, sir.”
Mr. Salomon watched the pianoforte player leave the room, and he too hoped it would be the last time he would set eyes on the man. Then it was his turn to take possession of his money.
“Can we lock up the building, Mr. Salomon?” Mr. Miller inquired. “Have you got everything?”
The young man realized that he had left his music in his dressing room and he went to retrieve the manuscript. It was then that the man keeping a silent watch saw his chance, and he followed Mr. Salomon down the dimly lit passageway.
The pages of music were still sitting where they had been left. Mr. Salomon was in the act of picking them up when he happened to glance in the mirror and saw, to his surprise, that there was another man in the room.
“Don’t pretend you don’t know me,” said the man, quietly closing the door.
At first, David Salomon was about to protest that he did not know the wreck of a man that was confronting him. But the voice, with its American accent, was strangely familiar, as was the scar on the man’s upper lip.
“Jonas?” he said, finally. “Jonas Street?”
“So you do remember me.”
“What are you doing in Leeds?”
“What do you think, Davey?”
“My father is dead, Jonas.”
“And ain’t that just too bad. I was right sorry to miss the funeral. I’ve never seen a man go to his grave all dressed up in furs.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I think you do, Davey. Where are they, boy? Did you sell them? Is that how you and that mother of yours managed to slip out of New York without paying me for my work trapping them? Those furs were top quality. You must have gotten a pretty penny for them.”
Before Mr. Salomon could reply, Mr. Miller opened the door and entered the room. “It is getting late, Mr. Salomon,” said the treasurer. “Have you found what you were looking for?”
Mr. Miller then noticed the other man, regarding the stranger with a mixture of surprise and distaste.
“I believe he has mistaken his way,” said Mr. Salomon. “If you would be so good as to show him to the door, I will follow in a few minutes.”
Mr. Miller nodded and said, “This way, if you please.”
“I’ll see you in London, Davey,” Jonas said, before being shoved through the door. “And remember me to your mother. Tell her I’ll see her, too.”
Peep Rep: Oh dear. It seems like David has brought trouble all the way from America! This sounds great. I'm going to locate the buy link.
Liza: Well done, Peep Rep. And well done, Dance!
Tell us a bit about your author who had does such a fine job of weaving a tale.
Dance: Libi Astaire is the author of the award-winning Ezra Melamed Mystery Series, a Jewish-themed historical mystery series set in Regency England. Earlier books in the series include Tempest in the Tea Room, The Ruby Spy Ring and The Disappearing Dowry, as well as the novellas Too Many Coins and General Well’ngone in Love.
Liza: Want to share any of Libi's secrets?
Liza: Oh well. I'm sure when you return to Libi in three days, she'll be pleased with how you comported yourself.
Dance: Three days? Why must I stay here for so long?
Peep Rep: The Carriage Horse is exhausted. It needs lots of rest.
Dance: Three days it is then. I miss you already Libi. Please write to me!