Domestic Violins / A Blanchard House Mystery
By: Cynthia Morrow
Length: 330 pages
Release date: Dec 14, 2013
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When violist and amateur psychologist Althea Stewart and her best friend, cellist Grace Sullivan, host a lavish memorial luncheon for Althea’s former mother-in-law Annabelle Pratt at Blanchard House, their historic home and teaching studio in Kirkland, WA, chaos ensues. Althea’s goddaughter Allegra Chapelle, a violin prodigy and daughter of Althea’s long-time friends, Kazumi and Les Chapelle, collapses in the living room. Althea learns, much to the consternation of Allegra’s mother, that the girl has recently been diagnosed with diabetes. Meanwhile, an altercation develops between Grace’s new flame Emile Girard, a bassist with Seattle Symphony, and the tattooed Russian catering staff, which soon erupts into a full-scale riot. Detective Harry Demetrius, both a pallbearer and a guest, breaks it up, sends the caterers on their way, and the memorial luncheon goes on as planned, complete with a concert by Allegra, and Althea’s old friend and pianist Conrad Bailey. In attendance are Allegra’s teacher, violin virtuoso Leonid Yevtushenko and his pianist wife, Eleni, who have camped out in the Blanchard House parking lot in their Winnebago, along with their poodle Zoya. The Yevtushenkos are invited to stay on and come to dinner the next evening.
Olga Kozlov, owner of Heaven’s Kitchen Catering, arrives next morning with her son Mischa and nephew Gennady to asses the damage. It seems that her husband Grisha, the chef, hasn’t come home. Mischa discovers his father’s body in the basement washroom, the man’s head resting in a pool of blood, and Detective Demetrious is called in.
Althea leaves the mess at Blanchard House because she’s been summoned to a reading of Annabelle’s will at Gorham & Faust, Attorneys at Law in Seattle. Her ex-husband Dennis and his new wife Simone are also in attendance, and although Dennis receives two houses and some fabulous violins, and the Seattle Symphony has been given Marvin Pratt’s priceless violin collection, Althea herself is the recipient of most of her former mother-in-law’s personal fortune, instruments, and jewelry. Dennis is furious.
Althea is nonplussed to learn that Allegra has invited Detective Demetrious, a man who both attracts and annoys her, to be among the dinner guests at Blanchard House that evening, along with Les and Kazumi Chapelle, Conrad Bailey, the Yevtushenkos, and naturally Althea and Grace. The detective announces that Grisha Kozlov’s death was far from accidental. He’d apparently died from a combination of two events: possibly from bleeding out after hitting his head on the toilet rim, but only after having been shot full of insulin. All eyes turn to Allegra, whose dramatic collapse the day of the murder due to complications from diabetes makes her a prime suspect.
Who else had access to insulin, and why would anyone want to kill a Russian chef, especially one whose lemon chicken was to die for? Everyone wants to know, including the Russian mob, a determined blonde stripper, his long-suffering family, and a houseful of musicians who came as guests and are now suspects in a murder investigation.