On the opening night of a new opera, The Princes in the Tower, in Kalb’s sprightly sequel to 2020’s A Fatal First Night, likewise set in 1899 Manhattan, opera singer Ella Shand finds basso Albert Reuter, who’s playing Richard III, in his dressing room with a bloody knife in his hand, standing over the body of Florian Lutz. Florian’s wife, Albert’s sister, was murdered two years earlier in Cleveland. Did Albert kill Florian to avenge his sister? Ella is unconvinced of Albert’s guilt, so she asks her friend and suitor, Gilbert Saint Aubyn, Duke of Leith, who has come to New York on a mysterious errand, to review the evidence. The appealing, independent Ella, who’s torn between her attraction to the duke and her love for a career she’s determined not to give up, has plenty of would-be male protectors, but she handles their Victorian attitudes with amusement rather than annoyance. The mystery is a bit of an afterthought, but Kalb has clearly done her research, giving the reader a fascinating glimpse into the life of a fin de siècle opera singer. Cozy fans will enjoy this one. Agent: Eric Myers, Myers Literary Management. (May)
Praise for A Fatal Finale, the first Ella Shane Mystery by Kathleen Marple Kalb
“Kathleen Marple Kalb's debut historical mystery, set in New York City in 1899, reads like the work of a seasoned novelist. Through her charismatic heroine, Ella Shane, the reader can peer through the curtain at the world of opera, seeing it in all its glamor, hard work, and occasional seediness. With a cast of endearing secondary characters and a dauntless heroine, A Fatal Finale calls for encore after encore.”
—Miranda James, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Cat in the Stacks series
“Filled with period detail and well-drawn characters, including an intelligent parrot named Montezuma, this story provides a nice start to a series for those who enjoy feisty heroines in cozies with theatrical frames.”
“A wonderful new series. Ella is an amazing character, an expert at fencing and cycling, besides her singing career. She is fiercely independent, having resisted all suitors, and wants to stay that way, even though people keep reminding her that, in her mid-thirties, she will soon be too old for motherhood. Kalb paints a vivid portrait of New York at the end of the 19th century…Highly recommended.”
—Historical Novel Society (Editor’s Choice)
“Kalb may be a debut author, but her storytelling skills are already top-notch...Fun, romance, swordplay, music, and a well-done mystery take the stage for an outstanding debut. Brava!”
—Mystery Scene Magazine
“A thoroughly enjoyable book, for both the plot centering around a still-contemporary malady, as well as its historical description of a world on the brink of a new century.”
—New York Journal of Books
“Appealing characters…Well-drawn opera-world setting.”
“An immersive romp in the life of a Gilded Age opera singer from humble beginnings...It sets the stage for a series that could explore the complicated career and interior life of an independent woman of the early 1900s.”
“In A Fatal Finale, Kathleen Marple Kalb raises the curtain on the tarnished glamour of the New York City theater scene in the Gilded Age, with a cast of characters so genuine and loveable you won’t want to leave them when the book is over. Bravo to this engaging debut! I look forward to encore after encore!”
—Alyssa Maxwell, author of Murder at Crossways
“Delightfully intriguing, A Fatal Finale is a Gilded Age gem of a mystery. Kathleen Marple Kalb has gifted us with a glimpse of behind-the-scenes opera at the turn of the 20th century and introduced us to Ella Shane, an unconventional diva, and the perfect plucky heroine. Readers will adore this immersive tale!”
—Lydia Kang, author of Opium and Absinthe
In Kalb's second "Ella Shane" mystery (after A Fatal Finale), Irish Jewish opera singer Ella prepares for the debut of a new opera. She specializes in trouser roles; the new opera, The Princes in the Tower, tells the story of Richard III during the War of the Roses. Ella and her cousin Tommy Hurley, the composer Louis Abramovitz, and her costar Marie d'Artois navigate their opening-night jitters and enjoy great success. After that night's show, the male lead, Albert Reuter, is found hunched over a dead body. Ella does not think he's guilty; she must find a way to prove it, while keeping the show on schedule. When her aristocratic suitor, Duke Gilbert Saint Aubin, arrives from London on a business trip, things become more complicated. For Ella, solving the mystery now takes a backseat to dealing with romantic feelings and detailed rumination about balancing career and marriage—a difficult task in Gilded Age New York. VERDICT Readers who enjoy historical mysteries with a touch of romance will enjoy the period details and strong female characters, as well as Ella's colorful parrot, Montezuma.—Barbara Bibel, formerly Oakland P.L.
Death stalks an opera company.
Ella Shane, an Irish Jewish New Yorker well known for her success in male roles, is appearing as Edward V in the brilliant new opera The Princes in the Tower. Although women don’t have much freedom in 1899, Ella is determined to keep hers even if her determination endangers her romance with Gilbert Saint Aubyn, Duke of Leith, with whom sparks have flown ever since they met while solving the murder of his cousin. Within the opera company, which is run by several of Ella’s friends and relatives from the Lower East Side, her cousin Tommy is especially protective of her reputation. When Albert Reuter, the singer playing Richard III, is arrested for murder, Detective Riley, another of Ella’s cousins, catches the case. No matter what, of course, the show must go on. Gil’s sudden appearance in New York on mysterious business gives Ella much to discuss with her best friend, newspaper reporter Hetty MacNaughten, who’s covering the sensational murder trial of Amelie Van Vleet. While Gil goes about his business, Ella considers the costs of marriage for an independent woman who wants to continue her career. Gil finds a way to prove Albert innocent, but the trouble still haunting the theater forces Ella and Gil to play detective again.
Romance, engaging characters, and a timely exploration of marriage and freedom make up for the meager mystery.