The Organist Who Wore Gloves, by Elaine Magalis. Paperback. 289 pages. $13.95.
Reviewed by Tena Starr
copyright the Chronicle 12-5-2012
Alex is 12, soon-to-be-13, an interesting age if there is one. Tasha Mulholland, his unlikely best friend, is of grandmother age. Together, they fancy themselves sleuths, and they happen to be rather good at it with the use of Google, common sense, and observation, not to mention intuition and their mutual perceptiveness.
In The Organist Who Wore Gloves, the pair sets out to solve interlocked mysteries. Who is playing the antique reed organ in the middle of the night in the Old Shrubsbury School Museum? Who is the stranger who turned up dead in the museum’s pond? Who shot him and why? And what is the answer to — and significance of — the musical riddle that is perplexing Tasha Mulholland and Alex, and reminding Ms. Mulholland of events she might have preferred to keep stored in the recesses of memory?
This is the second in Elaine Magalis’ series of whodunits based in Orleans County and, loosely, at the Old Stone House Museum in Brownington. The West Glover author’s first novel featuring Alex and Tasha was called The Body in the Butter Churn, another murder mystery.
The Organist Who Wore Gloves serves up an interesting and complex collection of characters, but also a collection of bad behaviors that may not be entirely appropriate for younger readers. They include embezzlement and adultery, an odd ménage a trois, in fact, that successfully muddies any idea the reader may have about the culprit.
But let me not give too much away.
Ms. Magalis’ mysteries remind me of a game of Clue. The cast of characters is all there, and every one of them is a reasonable suspect with a plausible motive to commit the crime.
However, the murderers in these mysteries are not the most obvious suspects. And The Organist Who Wore Gloves has a couple of pleasant surprises for its readers, although maybe not for Tasha Mulholland. The book has twists towards its end, ones that take its characters — as well as readers — aback.
There are a few legal matters Ms. Magalis might want to check up on for the sake of plausibility. For instance, contrary to common belief, a person might well end up with criminal charges whether the victim wishes them pressed or not. In Vermont, the state presses charges, not the victim, so it is not always possible to keep a “family matter” within the family and outside the law, as this book suggests.
But that is not the sort of thing that would trouble most readers.
An interesting aside is the use of music in this story to illustrate part of the mystery. Classical and jazz unite to offer clues about the midnight musician and the riddle someone has left to be solved. It’s a nice touch, as are the sections of the book that deal with the history and function of organs and the magnificence a good organ can lend to a piece of music.
The book touches on the supernatural. (Are we talking about a real man or a ghost?) It also explores the changing, hormone-ridden body and emotions of an adolescent boy, as well as his relationship with Ms. Mulholland, who is grandmother surrogate, fellow risk-taker, and true friend.
The Organist Who Wore Gloves is available through Amazon and at local bookstores.
Contact Tena Starr at firstname.lastname@example.org