- By H.R.F. Keating
- First published: UK: Collins, 1963; US: Dutton, 1966
The author’s fifth book, predating the creation of Inspector Ghote. The detective is the shrewd charwoman Mrs. Crags, a genuinely amusing creation. Her companion, Miss Milhorne, is less so, and is indeed rather wearing on the reader’s nerves and patience. The opera setting is well done, although certainly not to the level of Crispin’s Swan Song. The opening, in which the arrogant Pivoine makes a mockery of Puccini, is splendid, and the arrest of the Konstanze during the abduction from the seraglio itself is highly amusing. It is, however, neither Tosca nor Die Entführung aus dem Serail which is the focus, but Death of a Fat God, composed by Prokovinski (a relative of Prokofiev and Stravinski’s?). During the dress-rehearsal, the soprano is squashed flat by the chariot of the Fat God, Pivoine, so it seems likely he was the intended victim. In Keating’s early style, there is more characterisation than detection, but some highly ingenious false theories are put forward. However, the end is rather rushed and the murderer’s identity somewhat arbitrary, but the simple but effective misdirection compensates.