Saturday, March 16, 2013
The Diplomat & the Gold Piano: Review
The Diplomat & the Gold Piano (aka Death & the Diplomat) is the fourth (and final) of Margaret Scherf's comic mysteries starring Emily & Henry Bryce. The Bryces are decorators and occasional amateur detectives who tend to get caught up in the most unlikely adventures. This particular escapade sees them hired to help with decorative items--including the titled gold piano--to be incorporated into a makeover for a UN ambassador's apartment.
An anonymous "benefactor" arranges for the Pierre Marie Cloche, the United Nations ambassador from Gaad, and his wife to be presented with a lavish decorating job for their apartment. The piano will be done in gold leaf and a secretary will be fixed up with portraits of the the ambassador's "grandfathers." However, when Henry arrives at the apartment to put a couple of finishing touches on the secretary, he finds a media circus and a very baffled ambassador. Someone has played a very cruel joke on the ambassador--possibly ruining his country's chances of a much-needed loan from the United States. For the "grandfathers" in question are actually portraits of Marx and Engels....and the rumors in the journalistic world are flying that the ambassador (and his country) are not as poor as they seem.
When the decorator responsible for carrying out the job,Camille Lorenz, is found strangled with her own scarf, Cloche heads the list of suspects. Detective Burgreen seems eager to pin the murder on the ambassador, but Henry & Emily are sure that Cloche is too gentle and confused to be responsible. They know all too well that Camille was not a beloved member of the decorating world and had made many enemies of her own. And then there is that mysterious man in the camel's hair coat who keeps lurking about and the Bryce's begin to wonder if there isn't a more sinister and spy-like answer to the mystery. When another decorator falls victim to the killer, Henry begins to worry that all those connected to Camille may be in danger. Meanwhile, Emily goes her merry way--collecting steaks and trousers and other items on a scavenger hunt that will help track down the villain.
While this one is still a lot of fun--with some great little quotes and one-liners--it wasn't quite as well-done as my previous read (The Green Plaid Pants) and the 128 pages didn't fly by nearly as quickly as anticipated. Henry and Emily are as delightful as ever, but the storyline seems a bit more disjointed on this go-round. It is also not as fairly clued--one suspects what Emily may have picked up on her wanderings through other suspects apartments, but one doesn't really know. Two and 3/4 stars for a fairly good read--not quite solid enough for three (although I will round up for GoodReads).
The two officers seemed more puzzled by Emily's costume than by the presence of a corpse in the Mercedes. Perhaps corpses were more regular. (p. 80)
As he came up Second Avenue, Henry saw that Jerry Lauterbach was again having trouble with the neighborhood psycho. It was natural, Henry reflected, that New York, being so well supplied with all the necessities of life, should not be lacking in persons whose mental furniture was sliding on the polished floors of their intelligence. (p. 83)
Nothing makes a man feel more heroic than lying on the floor while his wife captures a criminal with a poinsettia. ~Henry Bryce (p. 128)