Jealousy and greed are often harbingers of danger and destruction. When sex and the love of money are not enough, jealousy will often do the trick to tip a level head over the edge. In Ding Dong the Diva’s Dead by Cat Melodia, we follow an interesting case of mayhem where the characters are not – well, to put it lightly, level headed. We follow Deborah de Lille, an opera singer, on a fast-paced and wickedly fun journey of deadly exploits interspersed with glimmering bits of humor.
Debbie has been offered the position after the first choice of diva dies in a strange auto accident, and as she makes her way to a small town to become part of a group of characters that have sang together many times before she goes with only slightly high hopes. Being the odd man out, she finds that someone does not want her there. She has been bombed with smoke bombs as well as ghostly visitors and strange booby traps. No one is what they seem and she is not sure who she can trust.
The egos and machinations of those who surround her are somewhat outlandish, and the singers are brutal and catty to one another. When one of the original members does not show for practice, they find she has left unexpectedly to go home. Having this new part added to her responsibility she starts working on that song as well. As she begins her practice in earnest, the accidents and strange happenings increase. Her part in both cases is only minor, so what is it about this opera that puts her at risk? On top of that, what really happened to the diva originally cast to this part?
As Debbie delves further into the mysteries, she finds herself quite attracted to the owner of the company, and it seems he is intent on rescuing her at every turn. Since he has been the one on the spot to offer her safety directly after several of the occurrences, he — due to the time and the nature of the accidents — has seen her in the buff more than is acceptable. Embarrassment has been her only cover during these rescues and yet he handles the situation as though nothing is out of place. Will the life of an opera star be her destiny or will it be her last repose?
Cat Melodia has written an excellent backstage opera mystery as only someone in the know could do. She takes you to the recesses of the theater open only to the cast and crew and makes you feel part of the action. Her characters are quite peculiar and egotistical and pass around gossip between themselves as well as the underground magazines. Persnickety and spoiled, they are at the top of their game when it comes to the real action.
Debbie is quite unique with her interesting agent and friends. Her mother keeps close tabs through her readings, and lets Debbie know when the cards show danger, which is quite often during this particular juncture. She is not really used to all the cattiness and back-stabbing nor is she interested in being passed around, which is part of the circuit. Caught in the nude in several of the dangerous circumstances, she holds her cool and does not waver. She handles it all with aplomb.
The staging and setting of the story adds a quintessential charm to the matter of mystery. The quirky and inimical characters are the icing on the cake, taking the story into convolutions of depth and vulnerabilities unimagined.
I would recommend Ding Dong the Diva’s Dead for mystery and humor fans. There is something wickedly zany and yet mysterious about the entire situation. The pace keeps you reading and the story keeps you engaged. It would be a great book for a book club, full of interesting characters and possibilities.