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Music Macabre

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Rayne is a fine writer, a sure-handed plotter and skillful character builder ... Fox is perhaps her most intriguing creation. He's a nifty guy to spend time with, and the elaborate mysteries he gets involved in are always captivating Researching a biography of the composer Franz Liszt, Phineas Fox uncovers evidence of a brutal murder - and finds his own life in dange Rayne is a fine writer, a sure-handed plotter and skillful character builder ... Fox is perhaps her most intriguing creation. He's a nifty guy to spend time with, and the elaborate mysteries he gets involved in are always captivating Researching a biography of the composer Franz Liszt, Phineas Fox uncovers evidence of a brutal murder - and finds his own life in danger. Music researcher Phineas Fox has been enjoying his latest commission, gathering background material for a biography of Franz Liszt. But although he has - as anticipated - uncovered plenty of scandal in the 19th century composer's past, matters take a decidedly unexpected turn when his investigations lead to Linklighters, a newly-opened Soho restaurant built on the site of an old Victorian music hall, and unearth evidence of a possible murder involving the notorious music hall performer known as Scaramel. Just what was Liszt's connection to Scaramel ... and, through her, to the infamous Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper? As he delves further, Phin's enquiries uncover clues to a fascinating and extraordinary story - and plunge his own life into jeopardy.


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Rayne is a fine writer, a sure-handed plotter and skillful character builder ... Fox is perhaps her most intriguing creation. He's a nifty guy to spend time with, and the elaborate mysteries he gets involved in are always captivating Researching a biography of the composer Franz Liszt, Phineas Fox uncovers evidence of a brutal murder - and finds his own life in dange Rayne is a fine writer, a sure-handed plotter and skillful character builder ... Fox is perhaps her most intriguing creation. He's a nifty guy to spend time with, and the elaborate mysteries he gets involved in are always captivating Researching a biography of the composer Franz Liszt, Phineas Fox uncovers evidence of a brutal murder - and finds his own life in danger. Music researcher Phineas Fox has been enjoying his latest commission, gathering background material for a biography of Franz Liszt. But although he has - as anticipated - uncovered plenty of scandal in the 19th century composer's past, matters take a decidedly unexpected turn when his investigations lead to Linklighters, a newly-opened Soho restaurant built on the site of an old Victorian music hall, and unearth evidence of a possible murder involving the notorious music hall performer known as Scaramel. Just what was Liszt's connection to Scaramel ... and, through her, to the infamous Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper? As he delves further, Phin's enquiries uncover clues to a fascinating and extraordinary story - and plunge his own life into jeopardy.

30 review for Music Macabre

  1. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    Rayne’s new novel is a decent historical mystery. Finn Fox is researching a new book on Frank Liszt. He has found a link between Liszt and Scaramel, a music hall performer. And there’s also a link to Jack the Ripper, operating in White Hall at the time. There are multiple storylines going on here. In addition to Finn’s research, we are also taken back in time to 1890s London where Scaramel launches a plan to try to protect the ladies of the night. We also are given the story of the couple that r Rayne’s new novel is a decent historical mystery. Finn Fox is researching a new book on Frank Liszt. He has found a link between Liszt and Scaramel, a music hall performer. And there’s also a link to Jack the Ripper, operating in White Hall at the time. There are multiple storylines going on here. In addition to Finn’s research, we are also taken back in time to 1890s London where Scaramel launches a plan to try to protect the ladies of the night. We also are given the story of the couple that renovate The Linklighter’s Club, where Scaramel performed regularly. Raine does a good job of painting the atmosphere of late 19th century London and accurately getting that whole gothic sense of darkness. But her characters don’t have a lot of depth to them. This book is all about the action, not character development. Readers expecting this book to be about Liszt will also be sorely disappointed. I found the ending to both storylines to be unbelievable. But the book is an entertaining read, fast paced with a decent sense of tension. This is the fourth in a series but it was easily read as a stand-alone. My thanks to netgalley and Severn House for an advance copy of this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    In the fourth Phinneas Fox mystery, Phin is tasked with researching the life of Franz Liszt for background for a scholarly work. By total accident, and because of his and friend Toby’s delight in researching older English ballads and street songs, music of the people, Phin, and the novel take a quite different direction. Music Macabre has a split narrative: the first set in present day London with Phin beginning his work on Liszt, the second set in the 1890s, also primarily in London. We readers In the fourth Phinneas Fox mystery, Phin is tasked with researching the life of Franz Liszt for background for a scholarly work. By total accident, and because of his and friend Toby’s delight in researching older English ballads and street songs, music of the people, Phin, and the novel take a quite different direction. Music Macabre has a split narrative: the first set in present day London with Phin beginning his work on Liszt, the second set in the 1890s, also primarily in London. We readers are privy to links between these times that Phin may never be certain are real. Fairly soon it becomes obvious that the initial reason for Phin’s research will be sidetracked by information related to the lyrics of an unknown song. This song was seen framed on a wall in a restored building, now a restaurant, formerly, in the 19th century, a music hall. This song with its oddly macabre lyrics will captivate Phin and link us with the 19th century story. While this might seem overly complicated, I found it worked well, as soon as I gave up on learning a lot about Liszt (not a major goal of mine anyway). There are some fascinating stories here especially of life among the poor in 1890s London, during the time of the “Peasouper” fogs and Jack the Ripper and bawdy music halls whose stars performed for all classes. I do recommend this episode in Phinneas Fox’s music-based adventures. I do enjoy when writers include that touch of history in their fiction to increase our knowledge and links to the past. A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Carla (Carla's Book Bits)

    I thoroughly enjoyed this! If you like murder mystery, Victorian gothic, and classical music, Music Macabre might just be a book that hits the spot for you. This book is actually part of the Phineas Fox series; it's the 4th, and I requested this without knowing that. I haven't read any of the previous books, but I was still able to get the gist of how this series works. I would probably recommend someone new to this series to start from the beginning (as I will definitely do!), because I did I thoroughly enjoyed this! If you like murder mystery, Victorian gothic, and classical music, Music Macabre might just be a book that hits the spot for you. This book is actually part of the Phineas Fox series; it's the 4th, and I requested this without knowing that. I haven't read any of the previous books, but I was still able to get the gist of how this series works. I would probably recommend someone new to this series to start from the beginning (as I will definitely do!), because I did feel like I was lacking some contextual details. And the book does jump in with the characters as if the reader already had a prior relationship to them. With that said, it didn't stop me from enjoying this story. I expected this story about a Victorian-era murder to be dark and gritty, but actually, this was quite a light read. Some parts were surprisingly funny. I would say this is more of a mix between cozy and gothic mystery, which is, fortunately, something I will always enjoy! Sarah Rayne's writing style is smooth and her pacing is tight. Overall, a fun book to pick up on a quiet night. I'll definitely be re-reading this one after I go back and introduce myself to Phineas Fox the way I should've in the beginning! I received a free e-ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Blaine DeSantis

    Wow! My first book by Sarah Rayne and I really enjoyed this. It is the 4th book of her Phineas Fox mystery series and it was just super enjoyable. The author moves seamlessly back and forth between current day and the 1890's. Phineas is a writer and is investigating new issues about the life of Frantz Liszt, and that takes him to investigating archival information at a local pub. That is enough to bring in the 1890's storyline. It us a fast and enjoyable read, and we get to understand the bowels Wow! My first book by Sarah Rayne and I really enjoyed this. It is the 4th book of her Phineas Fox mystery series and it was just super enjoyable. The author moves seamlessly back and forth between current day and the 1890's. Phineas is a writer and is investigating new issues about the life of Frantz Liszt, and that takes him to investigating archival information at a local pub. That is enough to bring in the 1890's storyline. It us a fast and enjoyable read, and we get to understand the bowels of London, the insane asylums of the same city, the life of a scandalous singer and her maid Daisy along with her family, and then there is Jack the Ripper who floats over the entire book. Lots of great plot twists and interesting characters. It is well written and even if you have not had a chance to read the first 3 books of the series that is not a hinderance to reading and totally enjoying Music Macabre!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kaethe

    Late Victorian London: I think you can guess where this one goes. Full of interesting characters and plot twists. Library copy

  6. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    This is the fourth book in the Phineas Fox series of murder mysteries. I have not read any of the others; I received this pre-publication e-book from Severn House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (also posted on Amazon and NetGalley). Phineas Fox is a music researcher and historian, who is engaged in a search for background material for a biography of Franz Liszt when he stumbles across sketchy evidence that the great composer had been involved with a notorious music hall performer This is the fourth book in the Phineas Fox series of murder mysteries. I have not read any of the others; I received this pre-publication e-book from Severn House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (also posted on Amazon and NetGalley). Phineas Fox is a music researcher and historian, who is engaged in a search for background material for a biography of Franz Liszt when he stumbles across sketchy evidence that the great composer had been involved with a notorious music hall performer named Scaramel in 1880s London. More intriguingly, Phin comes to believe that Scaramel was herself enmeshed in a murder case, and sets out to unpick this mystery. Aided and abetted by his collaborator Toby, Phin traces Scaramel’s old haunts, particularly Linklighters, once a music hall venue and now a trendy restaurant in London’s theatreland. He seeks out faded theatre bills and sketches by the mysterious artist Links, and gradually closes in on the heart of the story. We also meet Loretta and Roland, proprietors of the modern-day Linklighters – an odd couple indeed, and Loretta’s sinister and manipulative personality contributes to the build-up of tension and unease during the first half of the book. Meanwhile, a separate but intertwined tale is told from the point of view of Daisy, Scaramel’s maid in the 1880s, who becomes a target for Jack the Ripper after her brother witnesses one of the Ripper’s brutal murders. Scaramel takes the young pair under her wing, and later devises a plan by which women alone in the foggy streets of Whitechapel might be able to warn each other about the Ripper’s presence by singing a few bars of a song – taken from a piece of music by Liszt himself. The plot develops along both timelines, Victorian and present-day, with Linklighters and its sinister cellar and dark secrets intertwining between the two, and both storylines culminating in murder or the attempt at it. I found the book a slow build overall, but well written and with some splendidly atmospheric sections describing Victorian London, its notorious fogs (‘London Particulars’), being pursued dark through rainy streets in frantic search of a hansom, the inside of the terrifying Thrawl madhouse and so on. The final chapters detailing the eventual tie-up between the two timelines felt slightly rushed, but there were enough linking points for reader satisfaction (although I also thought there were a couple of coincidences that stretched credulity a little, and a few areas left vague and unresolved - perhaps on purpose). Overall, this was a good read - without the matter-of-fact gory brutality of some modern noir murder stories, but there are some graphic passages and the narrative rocks along nicely. Recommended for fans of Victorian Gothic with a modern twist.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This series is new to me so I happily have three more to read. When I saw this was a historically based mystery, I had to request it. I wasn't disappointed. The period is the Victoria Era with connections to present day. The main character is Phin Fox and he is researching the life of Franz Liszt. When he finds that Liszt had spent time in London in the 1890's and was in some way possibly connected to a murder he is intrigued. Soon he finds out that the Victorian dancehall, The Linklighters Supp This series is new to me so I happily have three more to read. When I saw this was a historically based mystery, I had to request it. I wasn't disappointed. The period is the Victoria Era with connections to present day. The main character is Phin Fox and he is researching the life of Franz Liszt. When he finds that Liszt had spent time in London in the 1890's and was in some way possibly connected to a murder he is intrigued. Soon he finds out that the Victorian dancehall, The Linklighters Supper Rooms still exists and has been renovated and named the Linklighter Club. With hopes that there might be some clues to be found through the new owners he sets off to dig deeper into the past. I don't usually enjoy books written with alternating voices, but the writing is so very well done, this wasn't a problem. The Victorian period came alive, warts and all through the narrative of dancer Scaramel, and Joe and Daisy. The present time is Phin and his research when he finds a 1946 volume in a used bookstore that mentions Scaramel and Linklighters. That night his writing partner and cousin of his girlfriend, Arabella, suggests dinner out to talk about a new writing project. On a whim, they look up Linklighters and find that it has been updated and is still in business. And so the mystery begins - who was Scaramel, was there a murder and what became of Scaramel. I was hooked from page one. All the pieces fit together very well and I found myself saying just one more page. My thanks to the publisher Severn House and NetGalley for giving me an advance copy in echange for my honest review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    4 stars Phineas “Phin” Fox is researching the eminent composer Franz Liszt for two professors and scholars who are collaborating on a book about the composer. He gets sidetracked, however, when his research leads him to a famous entertainer of the 1880's – 90's named Scaramel. He uncovers a story about Scaramel and the famous Linklighters restaurant/cabaret. Then he comes upon the knowledge that she supposedly murdered a man. He gets very involved in Scaramel's story and wants badly for the murde 4 stars Phineas “Phin” Fox is researching the eminent composer Franz Liszt for two professors and scholars who are collaborating on a book about the composer. He gets sidetracked, however, when his research leads him to a famous entertainer of the 1880's – 90's named Scaramel. He uncovers a story about Scaramel and the famous Linklighters restaurant/cabaret. Then he comes upon the knowledge that she supposedly murdered a man. He gets very involved in Scaramel's story and wants badly for the murder story to be false. His good friend Toby and his girlfriend Annabelle assist him in his research. Annabelle must travel to Paris for a length of time and she finds evidence that Scaramel was there as well. Toby in between helping Phin with his research, and going to medical school, manages in his usual style to “accidentally” trash Annabelle's apartment. The Linklighters restaurant is now open once more. We learn much about the re-opening of the business and very much more about its somewhat shady owners and just how it came into being once more. The book travels between the present and back to 1890's in the East End of London. Coincidentally, this is also the time when Jack the Ripper is prowling the streets of Whitechapel. Ms. Rayne ties the story together beautifully. The book is very interesting and held my attention for the entire time it took me to finish it. I enjoy reading about Phin, Toby (poor guy), and Annabelle. Toby and the trouble he gets into are a delight. The book is well written and plotted, although I felt that it didn't quite hang together as well as the previous three. I still enjoyed it immensely. I very much look forward to Ms. Rayne's next entry into the Phin Fox series. I want to thank NetGalley and Severn House/Severn House Publishers for forwarding to me a copy of this very good book for me to read, enjoy and review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gayle Noble

    Phineas Fox, a music researcher and author, starts to research material for a new book about the composer, Franz Listz. In doing so, Fox comes across a piece of music entitled 'Listzen for the Killer' and starts to piece together an intriguing tale of the music hall performer, Scaramel, murder, and the existence of one Jack the Ripper. This was a fascinating book and extremely well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, although I found the Victorian era chapters written from the perspective o Phineas Fox, a music researcher and author, starts to research material for a new book about the composer, Franz Listz. In doing so, Fox comes across a piece of music entitled 'Listzen for the Killer' and starts to piece together an intriguing tale of the music hall performer, Scaramel, murder, and the existence of one Jack the Ripper. This was a fascinating book and extremely well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, although I found the Victorian era chapters written from the perspective of Daisy, Scaramel's maid, much more interesting than the chapters that dealt with Fox's research. This is the fourth book in the series, and I've only read this one, however, I didn't feel at a disadvantage in not having read the first three. I found that the writing was such that I was transported into the story. Mature themes: murder, brief mentions of sexual abuse of children, asylums, some sexual content. Thanks to NetGalley and publishers, Severn House, for the opportunity to read an ARC.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Sarah Rayne has deftly turned an academic research project on Franz Liszt in to a light academic exercise that turns into a dark story surrounding a bawdy Victorian songstress. The pacing of the novel is brisk, with chapters pivoting from the present time to the Victorian period. I loved Rayne's characters: they were very alive and the 19th Century chapters were vibrant and eerie. I enjoyed every aspect of the book, but it was far darker than I anticipated. I expected an academic investigation wi Sarah Rayne has deftly turned an academic research project on Franz Liszt in to a light academic exercise that turns into a dark story surrounding a bawdy Victorian songstress. The pacing of the novel is brisk, with chapters pivoting from the present time to the Victorian period. I loved Rayne's characters: they were very alive and the 19th Century chapters were vibrant and eerie. I enjoyed every aspect of the book, but it was far darker than I anticipated. I expected an academic investigation with a bit more concentration on music---but Rayne delivered a very dark and violent foray in to the frightening streets Jack the Ripper stalked. This is a book that may well keep me up at night thinking about the dangerous streets of Victorian England.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    I have a particular weakness for historical mysteries with interesting twists (famous authors, composers, historical events, etc., at their center) and while the quality of writing in these is mixed, I generally find them entertaining. I picked up Music Macabre because it promised to suite my tastes, but I didn't know where it would fall on my acceptable-to-brilliant scale for these sorts of mysteries. It fell somewhere on the top third of that scale: not-great-literature-but-a-very-good-read-ind I have a particular weakness for historical mysteries with interesting twists (famous authors, composers, historical events, etc., at their center) and while the quality of writing in these is mixed, I generally find them entertaining. I picked up Music Macabre because it promised to suite my tastes, but I didn't know where it would fall on my acceptable-to-brilliant scale for these sorts of mysteries. It fell somewhere on the top third of that scale: not-great-literature-but-a-very-good-read-indeed. The novelty of the historical setting (in this case the era of Jack the Ripper, shortly after the death of Liszt, paired with a present-day semi-scholarly British cast) was fun, but the book appealed beyond that. The characters were engaging—people I'd be glad to spend more time with if the author offers me the opportunity. As I read, I found the title harder and harder to put down, particularly because of the multiple mysteries at its heart which left me with all sorts of questions and speculation. If you like historical mysteries, particularly those with a solid blend of fun and fright, you'll want to read this title.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Helen Carolan

    I swear this woman could write about plastic bin bags and I'd still enjoy it. Thankfully she hasn't here. In the latest installment for Phineas Fox music historian, he's on the trail of Franz Liszt. He discovers that the womanising Liszt in his later years had a thing for music hall preformer Scaramel. As Phin digs deeper he discovers that Scaramel had performed a piece to warn the residents of Whitechaple of the existence of Jack the ripper. But in the 1890's she mysteriously disappeared. In th I swear this woman could write about plastic bin bags and I'd still enjoy it. Thankfully she hasn't here. In the latest installment for Phineas Fox music historian, he's on the trail of Franz Liszt. He discovers that the womanising Liszt in his later years had a thing for music hall preformer Scaramel. As Phin digs deeper he discovers that Scaramel had performed a piece to warn the residents of Whitechaple of the existence of Jack the ripper. But in the 1890's she mysteriously disappeared. In the present day the club where Scaramel played still exists and may hold a wealth of secrets. Fab read as always from Ms Rayne.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lizzie Hayes

    Phineas Fox was enjoying his new commission gathering background material for a biography on the life and loves of composer Franz Liszt, virtuoso composer-pianist. His research has been going well until he turns up links to a music hall dancer Scaramel who during the late 1880 and 1890’s was notorious during her career for dancing on tables, at somewhere called Linklighters Supper Rooms in Harlequin Court, and that one of her admirers was Frans Liszt, albeit an aging admirer. Further investigati Phineas Fox was enjoying his new commission gathering background material for a biography on the life and loves of composer Franz Liszt, virtuoso composer-pianist. His research has been going well until he turns up links to a music hall dancer Scaramel who during the late 1880 and 1890’s was notorious during her career for dancing on tables, at somewhere called Linklighters Supper Rooms in Harlequin Court, and that one of her admirers was Frans Liszt, albeit an aging admirer. Further investigation reveal rumours that she had somehow become tangled in a murder, although the legend could not be verified. While his is pondering on this new information in bounces Toby Tallis with whom he had recently co-authored a book Bawdy Ballads Down the Ages, which is doing rather well, and Toby has enthusiastic ideas for a second book. Toby is also cousin to Arabella who is ‘walking out’ with Phin, but unfortunately for Phin decamping to Paris for a month. Resource to the Internet reveals that Harlequin Court and Linklighters still exists as a restaurant. Toby instantly books a table and off they go to explore. Interspersed with Phin’s research into the period we meet Daisy, Scaramel’s maid in the 1880s, who tells the historical story and who along with her brother, nicknamed Link, becomes a target for a killer. Scaramel has an idea for women to warn each other of possible danger from the notorious Jack the Ripper, and it is here that we understand the link to Liszt. Phin is keen to talk to the owner of Linklighters to see if any old papers still exist and so we meet Loretta, who has her own agenda. He also discovers some sketches of the area and the era in a nearby bookshop but could Phin’s keenness to discover the truth behind the possible murder be Phin’s undoing. I was fascinated by the clever blending of fact and fiction and the explanation of ‘Linklighters’ being street urchins carrying sticks with lighted tar to guide gentlemen and their ladies through the gloomy London fogs for a charge. Also, the network of ghost rivers that run across and under London. In the author’s notes at the end of the book she says Jack the Ripper got into the story in a far stronger way than she had bargained for. Although, many people do, I personally have no fascination with Jack the Ripper. I don’t waste time on horrible people and he definitely falls into that category. However, I love mysteries and this book falls clearly into that category. I think it is brilliant and extremely clever and kept me guessing to the end. It also poses intriguing hypothesis and I have no hesitation in heartily recommending it as a’ not to be missed read’. ------ Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

  14. 5 out of 5

    thereadingowlvina (Elvina Ulrich)

    ***4.75 stars*** Oh wow. This complex, puzzling murder mystery is surprisingly good and I enjoyed it immensely! I went in this book without knowing it is the fourth book in the Phineas Fox series. Fortunately it can still be read as standalone. Phineas Fox is a music researcher and historian, and is commissioned to research for a biography of Franz Liszt, a well-known composer-pianist in the 19th century. As he gathers information, Phineas discovers a scandal in Liszt's past which involved a ***4.75 stars*** Oh wow. This complex, puzzling murder mystery is surprisingly good and I enjoyed it immensely! I went in this book without knowing it is the fourth book in the Phineas Fox series. Fortunately it can still be read as standalone. Phineas Fox is a music researcher and historian, and is commissioned to research for a biography of Franz Liszt, a well-known composer-pianist in the 19th century. As he gathers information, Phineas discovers a scandal in Liszt's past which involved a famous music hall performer of Linklighters Supper Rooms known as Scaramel, who is rumored to be tangled up in murder. There is also a disturbing sketch called "Liszten for the Killer" by an unknown artist and a murder song by an unknown Welsh writer. These shocking discoveries eventually leads Phineas to Linklighters Restaurant, a newly renovated eatery built on this old music hall, where the owners of this new restaurant are also hiding a dark secret of their own. As Phineas is getting closer in putting the pieces of the puzzle together, he unwittingly is putting his life in danger. This dual timeline murder mystery is narrated between present time with Phineas trying to solve the mystery of Liszt and Scaramel, and the 1880s/1890s with Daisy, who was the maid for Scaramel in a time where London is terrorized by Leather Apron/Jack The Ripper. I enjoyed the dual timeline narration as it was executed well and not confusing at all. The storytelling is mellifluous and it was really engaging. I had to keep reading to find out what happened! This is a pretty good read with the right dose of suspense and mystery. Endearing characters but I think you'd need to read the first book to get a better understanding of the characters. Nonetheless, this did not lessen the reading experience. Yes, I will definitely be reading the next book in this series, but first, let's start from book one! "Listen for the footsteps 'cos it's very late at night, I can hear his tread and he's prowling through the dark, I can hear him breathing and I fear that I'm his mark. Now I hear the midnight prowl, Now I see the saw and knife, Next will come the victim's howl, So save yourself from him, and run ... ... run hard to save your life." ***I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from Severn House through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed in this review are my own and was not influenced by the author, publisher or any third party.***

  15. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    This is the latest installment in the Phineas Fox series of musical mysteries. You could read this as a stand alone book but, as always, I do recommend reading the whole series in order. Phin is researching Franz Liszt for two academics who are writing a book. He gets sidelined into a mystery surround Victorian music hall star, Scaramel, and inevitably things become more complicated. I very much enjoyed this book – as I have enjoyed all of the Phineas Fox series. Phin’s next door neighbour the boi This is the latest installment in the Phineas Fox series of musical mysteries. You could read this as a stand alone book but, as always, I do recommend reading the whole series in order. Phin is researching Franz Liszt for two academics who are writing a book. He gets sidelined into a mystery surround Victorian music hall star, Scaramel, and inevitably things become more complicated. I very much enjoyed this book – as I have enjoyed all of the Phineas Fox series. Phin’s next door neighbour the boisterous Toby Tallis returns with plans for a new collaboration on a book of ballards. Also back but in a very minor capacity is Arabella, Phin’s girlfriend and Toby’s cousin. The book runs along in two time periods. We follow Phin’s research as he uncovers the story of Scaramel. Alongside this we follow Scaramel’s story and that of her friends and their life. The two stories match quite closely and, although we are privy to more detail that Phin, we don’t learn the significant parts of the story any faster than he does. This allows plenty of time for the reader to make their own deductions as to what will happen. I like the fact that the book includes emails, old documents and even details of pictures to convey the information as well as basic text. This isn’t a fast action book although it does have one or two moments. However, I found there was always something to keep me interested and I struggled to put this down. I was slightly surprised when the book ended. I felt that there should have been more. However, looking back at the ending now, a few days later, I do feel that the book was complete and it was more that I didn’t want the book to end than the story was unfinished! I do highly recommend this series of books. They aren’t excessively gruesome with the emphasis on the mystery and following the clues. These are clever books with well written plots and plenty of information. I shall be keeping my eye out for the next in the series. I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alyson Rhodes

    Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher Severn House for an E -Arc of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I have been reading Sarah Rayne’s thrillers for years and always await her next one with baited breath. This is the fourth one starring music researcher and academic Phineas Fox, his girlfriend Arabella (here in a more peripheral role than previously) and best mate, the hapless Toby. Rayne utilises mirroring time lines for her novels- present day here and now and 1880’s Lond Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher Severn House for an E -Arc of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I have been reading Sarah Rayne’s thrillers for years and always await her next one with baited breath. This is the fourth one starring music researcher and academic Phineas Fox, his girlfriend Arabella (here in a more peripheral role than previously) and best mate, the hapless Toby. Rayne utilises mirroring time lines for her novels- present day here and now and 1880’s London when Jack the Ripper prowled. The chapters alternate between the two time periods and music plays a key role as it often does in Rayne thrillers, as well as music hall and theatres. A strange eerie piece of music (composed by Lizst?) with accompanying creepy words, leads Fox to a notorious Victorian music hall performer, Scaramel and to the newly renovated LinkLighters restaurant, which is the physical ‘link’ (excuse the pun) for the two stories, historic and present day. There is a horrible underground sluice gate below the restaurant which plays a major role in the action and there are many effective passages set in peasoupers in the 1880’s and in the ‘ghost rivers’ which proliferate beneath London. The story hops over to Paris for a brief digression as well. Rayne is very adept at drawing you, the reader, into the smells, sights and sounds of Victorian London, then contrasting and overlapping with the modern day locations too. Music, pub songs, playbills, letters, sketches by a young artist, programmes and newspaper reports play their usual part in the narrative, providing Fox and us with answers. This is a style which any regular reader of Rayne has come to expect and enjoy. History is all around us, along with murder and death. This is a dark, entertaining, sometimes violent romp (with a version of the Ripper legend thrown in) with characters you can warm to (Scaramel and her maid, Daisy in particular for this reader) across two time periods with a surprising ending.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Ross

    This thriller, set in parallel time lines in modern and Victorian-era London, weaves together the legend of the serial killer, Jack the Ripper, and the music of Franz Liszt. In today’s time, writer Phineas Fox is researching his next project, a scholarly work on the life of Liszt, when he comes across a reference to “Liszten for the Killer,” a song that the women of Whitechapel used as an alarm signal. The Victorian story line includes the notorious music hall dancer, Scaramel, and the poor girl This thriller, set in parallel time lines in modern and Victorian-era London, weaves together the legend of the serial killer, Jack the Ripper, and the music of Franz Liszt. In today’s time, writer Phineas Fox is researching his next project, a scholarly work on the life of Liszt, when he comes across a reference to “Liszten for the Killer,” a song that the women of Whitechapel used as an alarm signal. The Victorian story line includes the notorious music hall dancer, Scaramel, and the poor girl, Dairy, whom she befriends. As the Ripper’s attacks grow nearer, Daisy and her younger brother barely escape his knives. Scaramel devises a scheme to use a melody composed by Liszt’s, as distinctive as it is haunting, as a way to rapidly spread word of his approach. Meanwhile, Phineas’s researches bring him to the physical location of the older story’s events. Many of the same buildings are still in existence, including the pub where Scaramel and her group met; in gaining access to the documents stored in the basement, he encounters the new owner, who has a secret family history and obsession of her own. Music Macabre added something quite new and fresh for me to the usual tales of Jack the Ripper. Initially my curiosity was piqued by the use of Liszt’s music as a plot element. That in itself set the book apart (and as an adult piano student, I have Opinions about Liszt’s compositions for a pianist with relatively small hands). Both story lines drew me in, and as the parallel tales progressed, echoing and crossing one another, the tension rocketed up. The thriller elements were handled with seeming effortlessness, allowing deeper nuances to emerge. Sympathetic characters, a burgeoning sense of doom, and unexpected twists added to the reading enjoyment. Now, where’s that playlist?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Susan Johnston

    Princess Fuzzypants here: This author has a knack for writing book where two separate stories evolve in different centuries but finally cross by the end. This time a musicologist is researching the life of Listz and finds some fascinating “dirt” about his various alliances with ladies of questionable morals. In fact, it appears he was smitten with a music hall star of the late 19th century who may or may not have been a murderess. It appears there might be proof hidden in the cellar of a newly r Princess Fuzzypants here: This author has a knack for writing book where two separate stories evolve in different centuries but finally cross by the end. This time a musicologist is researching the life of Listz and finds some fascinating “dirt” about his various alliances with ladies of questionable morals. In fact, it appears he was smitten with a music hall star of the late 19th century who may or may not have been a murderess. It appears there might be proof hidden in the cellar of a newly reopened restaurant that was once a supper club where she performed. The second story revolves around the lady in question and her maid, an East End girl, who escapes the violence and dark deeds of Whitechapel in the time of the Ripper, only to discover it has followed her and will impact her life and the lives of those around her. It is an atmospheric and very scary story with an unfortunate end for some of them. The author does an admirable job weaving both tales and keeping the reader riveted, wanting to keep reading to find out the fates of all the heroes and heroines. There are a lot of moving pieces so it requires concentration from the reader but it rewards those efforts well. Five purrs and two paws up.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I didn't realize that this was a Jack the Ripper mystery, at least in part; perhaps I should have started with a different Rayne book. Since this was the first I've read, I don't know whether she routinely writes a book with two or more time periods at once. In contemporary London, Phin Fox, a music researcher, has a job providing facts for a biography of Liszt. He finds that Liszt admired a music hall singer Scaramel, whose life we see through the eyes of her maid Daisy. Phin and his girlfriend I didn't realize that this was a Jack the Ripper mystery, at least in part; perhaps I should have started with a different Rayne book. Since this was the first I've read, I don't know whether she routinely writes a book with two or more time periods at once. In contemporary London, Phin Fox, a music researcher, has a job providing facts for a biography of Liszt. He finds that Liszt admired a music hall singer Scaramel, whose life we see through the eyes of her maid Daisy. Phin and his girlfriend--on temporary assignment in Paris--become fascinated with Scaramel and her milieu. We're also taken back to see their lives in their own time, including their experiences with Jack. Then there are the owners of the renovated restaurant where Scaramel once performed, one of whom may be related to the nineteenth century characters we meet. Since we know about Daisy first hand, as it were, we know things that Phin never learns, but we never learn some things we'd like to about Daisy. The events of the nineteenth century are presented out of chronological order, which can be confusing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hannelore Cheney

    Thank you NetGalley and Severn House for the eARC. Phineas Fox is researching the composer Franz Liszt for an upcoming book when he decides to delve into the life of a popular entertainer in the late 1800's, Scaramel, who had a connection with Liszt in his later years. It takes him into London's East End, and finds there's a terrifying connection between Scaramel, her maid Daisy and Jack the Ripper. Also, did Scaramel commit a murder? We go back and forth between the present and the 1800's, with s Thank you NetGalley and Severn House for the eARC. Phineas Fox is researching the composer Franz Liszt for an upcoming book when he decides to delve into the life of a popular entertainer in the late 1800's, Scaramel, who had a connection with Liszt in his later years. It takes him into London's East End, and finds there's a terrifying connection between Scaramel, her maid Daisy and Jack the Ripper. Also, did Scaramel commit a murder? We go back and forth between the present and the 1800's, with some creepy paragraphs about the underground rivers in London, where Jack is stalking Daisy; and Toby, Arabelle and Phin are on the trail of the past. I like Phin, but not as much as Toby and Arabelle; those two are adorable! I also liked the book's atmosphere, very dark and claustrophobic (in a good way!). Another excellent read in this series, which I recommend highly

  21. 4 out of 5

    Fatima Sarder

    Too many main characters vying for the center stage and unfortunately, this causes the characters to be as flat as cardboard. Phin Fox continues to be a background character. Throw his lovably chaotic girlfriend, Arabella, into the mix and the scenes where Phin is supposed to research a gruesome murderess and a macabre song is suddenly visited with less enthusiasm, rather side-tracked for date-lunches, dinners and unnecessarily romantic emails. I did not need to know the amount of times Phin is go Too many main characters vying for the center stage and unfortunately, this causes the characters to be as flat as cardboard. Phin Fox continues to be a background character. Throw his lovably chaotic girlfriend, Arabella, into the mix and the scenes where Phin is supposed to research a gruesome murderess and a macabre song is suddenly visited with less enthusiasm, rather side-tracked for date-lunches, dinners and unnecessarily romantic emails. I did not need to know the amount of times Phin is going to miss Arabella because she's moving to Paris for a month. We get it. As for Franz Liszt's connection to Scaramel... while I was hoping for a more in-depth exploration. Instead, the two characters don't even meet. Throw Jack the Ripper in the mix and suddenly it's all about the killer. Disappointing and somewhat rushed ending unlike the other books.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Phin Fox has once again found himself uncovering something entirely unexpected while doing a research job- a connection, sort of, between Franz List and Jack the Ripper. Don't worry if you haven't read the earlier books, this is fine as a standalone because each mystery is more or less self contained. Phin is moving along briskly with his research when he comes upon the story of Scaramel, an entertainer in 1890s London- setting up the dual time line. It's all connected through Linklighters, now Phin Fox has once again found himself uncovering something entirely unexpected while doing a research job- a connection, sort of, between Franz List and Jack the Ripper. Don't worry if you haven't read the earlier books, this is fine as a standalone because each mystery is more or less self contained. Phin is moving along briskly with his research when he comes upon the story of Scaramel, an entertainer in 1890s London- setting up the dual time line. It's all connected through Linklighters, now a restaurant but once a music hall where she performed. Phin's more intrigued by her than he is by Lizt (who wouldn't be?). He's got good friends to help him and a nose for investigation. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. A fun read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This is the 4th book in this series, but the first one I have read. I found Phineas Fox to be a delightful character. The story here I thought was very unique, with 3 different story lines taking place but they all come together in the end. I'm not sure how much of the story is historically accurate but the historical parts felt real to me. There's a supporting cast of great characters. The movement between the 3 stories keeps you engaged in trying to figure out the mystery. There are some thril This is the 4th book in this series, but the first one I have read. I found Phineas Fox to be a delightful character. The story here I thought was very unique, with 3 different story lines taking place but they all come together in the end. I'm not sure how much of the story is historically accurate but the historical parts felt real to me. There's a supporting cast of great characters. The movement between the 3 stories keeps you engaged in trying to figure out the mystery. There are some thrills also to keep you on the edge of your seat and a good dose of London fog to give you that little chill down the spine. This was a great read and I hope to have a chance to read more from this series.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Annarella

    An atmospheric, enthralling and entertaining historical mystery. I liked this series because it mixes facts and fiction and the mysteries are always complex and full of twists and turns. This one was no exception and I was hooked since the first pages. I liked the solid mystery that kept guessing, the well crafted plot and the fleshed out cast of characters. An excellent read, highly recommended. Many thanks to Severn House and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anglophile Bookworm

    An intriguing novel that intermingles 19th century and present day London; following the steps of Phineas Fox we will encounter interesting characters such as the notorious music hall performer Scaramel, Daisy, Joe, Toby, Arabella… and of course… Jack the Ripper! Thanks to NetGalley and Severn House for a copy of this book to read and review.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Clare

    Music Macabre is a brilliantly written historical mystery combining fact with fiction. A fantastic addition to the popular Phineas Fox series of books by the equally superb Sarah Rayne who's writing never disappoints. With just the right amount of humour, sauciness, tragedy and terror this book had me gripped. Phin, Toby and Arabella are fast becoming some of my favourite fictional characters. Music Macabre is a brilliantly written historical mystery combining fact with fiction. A fantastic addition to the popular Phineas Fox series of books by the equally superb Sarah Rayne who's writing never disappoints. With just the right amount of humour, sauciness, tragedy and terror this book had me gripped. Phin, Toby and Arabella are fast becoming some of my favourite fictional characters.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julie Hulten

    Interesting premise - I thought this one more of a stretch than the first one I read. Some "threads" were not fully developed, like how the modern person was actually connected to the 1890's family. But, all in all, intriguing. Interesting premise - I thought this one more of a stretch than the first one I read. Some "threads" were not fully developed, like how the modern person was actually connected to the 1890's family. But, all in all, intriguing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    John Sargent

    Very good plot. Hard to put down.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    There were a few times this story dragged but there were so many surprise twists it was great! There were so many unexpected moments right down to the last page!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    I love this series! So glad I discovered it. The history involved with the music and mystery have made this one of my favorite book series. I very much look forward to the next book!

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