Wish I could give this book six stars! That would be five stars for the story and the sixth star for the physical book. Sure, I love to read e-books as well, but I do love to hold a well-designed, superbly crafted trade paperback, turn the soft pages that lie flat, feel the texture of a lovely cover, and read the unique sans serif type font to follow an entrancing story.
On to the story. The Rainaldi Quartet refers to the four men who meet weekly to play in their hometown of Cremona, Italy. Two are luthers (those who make violins) as well as violin players. Rainaldi is one, the other is the narrator of the story, Gianni. A priest plays the viola and the younger, chief of police plays the cello. But it is Rainaldi, in good spirits, who chooses what they will play when the story opens. And it is Rainaldi who is murdered late that night.
The plot follows Gianni and the chief of police as they try to determine why their friend was killed, what secret he knew, what papers he had been working on, what amazing event he looked forward to. Their search takes them to the English countryside, to Venice, and to the ruins of a house burned a century ago looking for documents, then looking for a rare violin that may or may not exist.
Besides pouring over the mystery of the book, the reader will absorb bits of history, bits of the making and restoring of rare violins, and especially, the day to day life of an Italian gentleman of a certain age (as they say). Gianni’s musing on his grandchildren visiting, the changing light on the canals of Venice, and his emotions over sudden death are, surprisingly, every bit as engrossing as the search for the perhaps mythical violin and the reason behind murder.
Although this is placed in current times, history underlies the plot. And, as an American reader, I marvel at families who “remember” ancestors of a hundred or more years ago, and live in the same home, looking at the same portraits on the wall, and may not be all that impressed by the fame of the violinist in their family tree.