Introducing professional researcher Phineas Fox in the first of a brand-new series of chilling mysteries.
Phineas Fox has mixed feelings when he’s asked to research the infamous 19th-century violinist Roman Volf for a TV documentary. Hanged for his part in the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, Volf was a notorious criminal and womaniser, whose glittering talent was undermined by his scandalous private life. However, on uncovering evidence which suggests that Volf could not have been involved in the Tsar’s murder, Phin’s investigations lead him to the west coast of Ireland – and a series of intriguing, interlocking mysteries reaching from 1881 to the present day.
Was Roman Volf executed for something he didn’t do? And what is his connection with the reclusive Maxim Volf now living in County Galway? Phin’s enquiries will unearth a number of dark secrets which lurk below the surface of the quiet Irish village of Kilcarne.
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A good researcher should be able to plumb the depths of all kinds of darknesses and remain objective, especially when his bank balance is dwindling with alarming rapidity.
Accordingly, after his agent’s phone call Phineas plundered his bookshelves for references to Roman Volf and the infamous assassination of the Tsar Alexander II in 1881. .
The first mention he found was couched in colourful terms, and said, ‘Roman Volf was a virtuoso violinist – charismatic and brilliant. But a dark and suffocating web of tragedy wove itself around the last months of his life, and it was believed by some that his descendants would be trapped in the spider-strands of that dark web for many years into the future…’ .
This had been written by a Russian journalist called Feofil Markov, and a footnote explained it had been translated from the original Russian. .
‘Two days after the official announcement of the tsar’s death, Roman Volf led an exultant midnight march of the rebels across the Pevchesky Bridge and along the banks of the Catherine Canal. He played his violin as he went, the anarchists and rebels prancing along behind him, as if he were some fantastical Scaramouche incarnation or a latter-day Pied Piper….’ .
Phin wondered if that extraordinary march could be verified. Because if so – and always supposing he accepted the TV commission – it would make a terrific dramatic reconstruction. ‘It was not until one o’clock in the morning,’ wrote Feofil, ‘that the Russian police, along with a number of imperial cossacks, finally surrounded him on the Pevchesky Bridge. They arrested him, and took him to the dread Peter and Paul Fortress – the “Russian Bastille”.’ .
And, thought Phin, as far as Roman Volf was concerned, that was the day the music died. .
At the end of the article Feofil had written, ‘ Roman Volf faced Death disdainfully, as if he was auditioning it to provide accompaniment for one of his performances. Throughout the trial he protested his innocence, although no one believed him. His judges certainly did not.’