Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes when a crime wave sweeps through Regency London’s Jewish community and the adventures of wealthy-widower-turned-sleuth Ezra Melamed are recorded for posterity by Miss Rebecca Lyon, a young lady not quite at the marriageable age.
In this fourth volume of the series, David Salomon, a young violinist and composer, has left New York to find fame and fortune in Regency London. But disaster strikes not long after he arrives. Someone is stealing his compositions before he can perform them and soon he is the laughingstock of the beau monde that he had hoped to conquer.
With few friends and even fewer resources, he turns to Ezra Melamed for help with finding the thief. But who would wish to harm a young stranger? The deeper Mr. Melamed looks into the violinist’s story the more jarring notes he finds, making The Doppelganger’s Dance one of the most discomposing mysteries of his career.
Targeted Age Group:: Adults
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
While doing research for an earlier book in my Ezra Melamed Mystery Series, which is set in Regency England, I ran across a mention of a piano-making shop. Since I love music, I had to read about this shop, the sorts of pianos that were made there, the new technologies that were being used in the race to construct a better pianoforte, etc. And as I was reading it occurred to me that I had found the subject of a future mystery story – which became The Doppelganger’s Dance, a mystery about technology, greed and, of course, music.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
To be honest, the recurring cast in my series – my sleuth Ezra Melamed, my narrator Miss Rebecca Lyon, my teenage leader of pickpockets the Earl of Gravel Lane and his sidekick General Well’ngone – were a gift. They were there, distinct personalities, from the first moment that I began to write. However, the characters specific to each book – in this case, the violinist David Salomon, his mother, etc. – take time to get to know. But that’s part of the fun of writing: your characters are continually surprising you.
MR. GRIMM BRUSHED off the dust that had accumulated on his hat and ran his fingers through his tangled hair before placing the hat back upon his head. Having thus finished his toilette he ascended the stairs that led to Mr. Herman Kimml’s music publishing establishment. He paused when he reached the top of the landing, to catch his breath. Once, he noted bitterly, he could have flown up many more flights of steps and not felt the least bit tired, buoyed by nothing more than youthful hope and dreams of glory. Those days were long gone. Instead, he was a man of middle age and middling health and vigor—and still standing on the wrong side of a closed door.
That door suddenly opened and a man of mature years and not quite fashionable clothes stepped out, a roll of music in his clenched hand. By unspoken agreement, neither man looked at the other. They did not need words to communicate that they were both musicians that fame and fortune had passed by. Even crumbs from the banquet of life eluded them more often than not.
Mr. Grimm waited until the other man had departed and slammed the front door behind him. Then he summoned up what remained of his tattered dignity and strode into the room.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Tree,” he said. “I sent some music to Mr. Kimml a month ago.”
“Your name, sir?”
Mr. Grimm stared at the man with his haughtiest look. “Grimm, sir. Mr. Karl Grimm. It is a name that is well known in Europe.”
Mr. Tree bowed and went to the back of the room, where Mr. Kimml was sitting. “Mr. Grimm, sir,” he shouted into the ear trumpet. “He sent some music a month ago.”
Mr. Kimml nodded and began to rummage about the desk. After retrieving the manuscript from the bottom of a pile, Mr. Kimml looked over Mr. Grimm’s musical scores one last time. He then handed the papers to Mr. Tree with a slight shake of the head.
Mr. Tree, in turn, brought the music to the waiting composer. “Mr. Kimml conveys his compliments to Mr. Grimm, and regrets that he is unable to act as Mr. Grimm’s publisher.”
“Does Mr. Kimml say why?” asked Mr. Grimm, taking back the manuscript.
Mr. Tree shrugged. “Mr. Kimml never says why. Good day, sir.”
The shop assistant turned toward the piano and Mr. Grimm turned toward the door.
“Mr. Tree!” shouted Mr. Kimml.
“Yes, Mr. Kimml?” the assistant shouted back.
“What have we heard from Mr. Salomon?”
“Nothing yet, sir!”
“Ask him if he has a sonata for the piano ready. We need something to complete this collection.” Mr. Kimml waved a sheaf of papers in the direction of his assistant.
“Yes, Mr. Kimml!”
Mr. Grimm’s hand gripped the doorknob as though the object were the only thing saving him from tumbling off a high cliff and falling into an abyss. The mention of Mr. Salomon’s name not only reminded him of the concert in Leeds, but also of the fact that soon afterward he had been relieved of his position with the Leeds Musical Society, which was why he had come to London to find new work. When he left the room, he descended the stairs with twice the speed that he had ascended them; anger always gave him new strength. But after a few minutes of strenuous walking down Cornhill Street the breathless feeling recurred and he was forced to slow his pace.
What he needed, he decided, after the morning’s disappointments was a place where he could sit and drink his gin undisturbed. Turning down various streets until he was quite lost in the maze that comprises the City, he came at last to Sweeting’s Alley and an establishment that he thought could provide him with the refreshments he required. He made his way to the serving counter and called out to the person standing there, “Gin, sir!”
“This is a coffee house, sir,” said Mr. Baer, for, indeed, the pianoforte player from Leeds had stumbled into the kosher establishment by mistake. “We serve coffee here, and food.”
Mr. Grimm looked about the place with disgust. He could not see the point of an eating establishment that did not serve alcoholic refreshments. His disgust increased tenfold when he saw Mr. Salomon sitting at one of the tables. “You serve violinists, too, I see.”
“I hope you do not intend to be quarrelsome, sir,” said Mr. Baer, who had come out from behind the counter to stand between Mr. Grimm and his other customers.
Mr. Grimm sized up the coffee house’s proprietor, who was a burly man, and if he had thought to be quarrelsome a moment before he now quickly changed his mind.
“I have no quarrel with you,” he said, bowing and then making for the door.
Once back outside, he dashed across the street, his anger having returned at the sight of Mr. Salomon, and promptly ran into a man who was standing by the stall of a vendor selling fruit.
“Watch where you’re going,” Mr. Grimm said, before stooping to pick up the sheets of music that had fallen to the ground.
“I wasn’t the one who was going,” Jonas Street snapped back, placing a muddy boot on one of the pages. “I was standing here.”
Mr. Grimm grabbed the page and stood up. “Next time, stand elsewhere.”
Jonas was about to reply in kind, when he recognized the other man’s face. “Aren’t you the piano player? Didn’t I see you in Leeds?”
“You may have, sir,” replied Mr. Grimm, straightening up to his full height. “My name is Karl Grimm. It is a name that is well known in Europe. I was in Leeds only temporarily, as a favor to the King of Bohemia.”
“That’s right. And I’m here in London as a favor to the Emperor Napoleon.
Mr. Grimm glared at Jonas before storming down the street.
Mr. Salomon, who had noticed the arrival of Mr. Grimm with trepidation, was relieved by the man’s hasty departure. He had taken to eating his meals at the coffee house after he was offered use of the room on Cornhill Street, since it was more convenient to eat there than return home. Now he was anxious to pay his bill and return to work. Inspiration had come, to his relief, and he was in the midst of working on his new sonata. What’s more, he was certain that the new piece was good—very good.
“I hope everything was satisfactory, Mr. Salomon,” said Mr. Baer, taking the money.
“Yes, my compliments to your wife. She is an excellent cook.”
Mr. Baer watched the young musician depart. Since Mrs. Baer was busy with marrying off the mother, Mr. Salomon had so far escaped from Mrs. Baer’s matchmaking attentions. But the day would come when it would be the turn of the musician, Mr. Baer thought with a smile, before returning to his own work.
Mr. Salomon had not gone far before he was joined by Jonas Street.
“Enjoyed your food, Davey?” asked the former trapper.
Mr. Salomon reached into his pocket and took out a coin. “Buy yourself some supper.”
“You can’t buy me off so easily.”
“And you cannot frighten me, Jonas. I spoke to my mother. She says Father’s lawyer assured her that he paid you, along with the others, everything you were owed.”
“Then one of them is a liar.”
Mr. Salomon stopped. “You dare to speak like that about Mrs. Salomon? And to me, her son?”
“Would I be here, Davey, if I had been paid? Would I have thrown away good money on a ship and lodgings here in London just to hound you?”
Mr. Salomon was silent.
“If it had just been me, Davey, I wouldn’t have wasted my money on coming over here. But Roger—that was the other trapper, the one who got killed by those Indians—he was married to my sister, and now she don’t have anything to live on. How is she supposed to feed her little ones, Davey?”
“All of my Father’s debts have been paid. Good day.”
Mr. Salomon turned to walk away, but Jonas gripped his arm tightly and stopped him. “Write to the lawyer, Davey. Ask him if what I’m telling you is true, or not. When one of those lawyers gives a man like me some money, he writes it down in a big book. You ask him to check his book, and see if there’s in it an entry for me and Roger Paul, my sister’s dead husband.”
“If you are certain those entries will not be found, why did you not bring a letter from the lawyer with you? It would have saved you time and trouble.”
“Do you think I didn’t try? Your lawyer wouldn’t talk to me. Probably your mother paid him to keep silent. But he’ll answer you, Davey. He’ll have to.”
“There is a war going on, Jonas. I will write to the lawyer, but I cannot guarantee that the letter will ever reach its destination.”
“So that’s how it is. I thought you would be different, being an artist and all that.”
Mr. Salomon felt the color rising to his cheeks. “Different from what?”
“You know as well as me that your father didn’t get a knife stuck in his back at that race track because he was a fine, upstanding citizen who honored his financial obligations.”
Mr. Salomon angrily removed his arm from the other man’s grip and hurried down the street.
“My sister is counting on me to get that money,” Jonas called after him. “And I’m going to do it!”
Jonas watched while Mr. Salomon disappeared into the crowd. Mr. Grimm, who had observed the encounter with interest from his seat by the open window of a gin house, now exited that establishment and joined Mr. Street.
“I see we have something in common, sir,” said Mr. Grimm, “besides our respective royal commissions.”
Mr. Street regarded the pianoforte player with a wary eye. “And what might that be?”
“A mutual dislike of Mr. David Salomon.”
“What if we do?”
“Perhaps we can be of service to one another.”
“The King of Bohemia won’t mind your dabbling in American affairs?”
Mr. Grimm made a face that was for him a smile. “I think he can spare me, for a little while.”
Libi Astaire is the author of the award-winning Ezra Melamed Mystery Series, which is set in Regency England. She is also the author of Terra Incognita, a novel about modern-day descendants of Spain’s crypto-Jews, The Banished Heart, a novel about Shakespeare’s writing of The Merchant of Venice, and several volumes of Chassidic tales.
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