Music Macabre

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 1 Nov 2019

Member Reviews

Sarah Rayne in Music Macabre is twinning Phineas Fox researching a Liszt connection to a dancer in London in the 1880's music hall and a new restaurant the Lamplighters.  Macabre music is also connected to Jack the Ripper.  This is about the small players and crime in Victorian London; who will get caught?  Victorian London dominates the story in this Fox adventure.
Was this review helpful?
In the fourth Phineas 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 Phineas 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.
Was this review helpful?
The 4th in a mystery series but the first i have read i found an interesting mystery that kept me guessing until the end, I can't wait to read the first books
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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 exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
I received a complimentary ARC copy of Music Macabre(Phineas Fox #4)
by Sarah Rayne from NetGalley and Severn House Publishers in order to read and give an honest review.

" ...clever, complex and incredibly well-written, this book keeps the reader enthralled...

This is the first novel I have read by Sarah Rayne and I know I will definitely be reading her others as well.  A modern-day mystery interspersed with a gothic victorian murder set in the late 1800s, the author manages to intertwine multiple plotlines wonderfully.

Music researcher, historian and author,  Phineas Fox is collecting research to write a biography about famous and flamboyant composer Franz Liszt. While researching he comes across Linklighters, a  recently opened restaurant that was once a well-known Victorian music hall.  Phineas meets it's mysterious owner Loretta Farrant and uncovers old memorabilia that points to Liszt, Jack the Ripper and about the murder with the famous performer known as Scaramel at its centre. The story travels back in time to meet Scaramel, Daisy, Joe and hear about the gruesome murders that are occurring in the area. Present-day we follow Phineas as he uncovers research and we also learn about Loretta Farrant, her husband Roland as well as the mysterious death of Roland's mother.

I actually really enjoyed this book but wished I would have seen more of Phineas.  This is the fourth book in a series and I regret not reading the previous three to get more of a glimpse into Phineas's character but it was a fantastic read as a stand-alone.  Overall I found it clever, complex and incredibly well-written, this book keeps the reader enthralled until the last page and I would highly recommend it!
Was this review helpful?
My thanks to Severn House for a digital edition via NetGalley of Sarah Rayne’s ‘Music Macabre’ in exchange for an honest review.

This is the fourth in Rayne’s Phineas Fox mysteries. I hadn’t read any of the earlier books in the series, though this wasn’t a problem as enough background was provided. A few years back I did read a few of her titles and know that she is very interested in old buildings and their atmospheres. 

Fox is a music researcher and historian. His latest commission has him gathering background information for an academic biography of composer Franz Liszt. His investigation takes him to Linklighters, a newly-opened Soho restaurant that originally was a Victorian music hall. There he finds evidence of a possible murder involving a flamboyant music hall performer known as Scaramel.

As he explores Liszt's connection to Scaramel ... he finds a surprising link to the infamous Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper. Yet his desire to uncover this story ends up putting his own life in danger.

The narrative has two streams. The first follows Fox’s investigations in modern day London and the other is set in 1880/90s London with Scaramel and others in her circle. 

I enjoyed this very much finding it a well written and highly engaging mystery skilfully blending historical fact and fiction. Rayne does capture a strong sense of place, bringing the architecture and cityscape of both modern and Victorian London vividly to life.

Since finishing this novel I have obtained her first 
Phineas Fox mystery and hope to read some of her other titles.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
Now that I've read the four (to date) PHINEAS FINN MUSIC MYSTERIES by immensely gifted author Sarah Rayne, I expect MUSIC MACABRE (Book 4) to remain my favourite. Like Book 1, it trods the streets of Victorian London, my favorite historical era, and also weaves in my top historical fascination: Saucy Jack (Jack the Ripper of Whitechapel, East End London 1888). Ms. Rayne presents a couple of quite intriguing possibilities for the remarkable sudden disappearance of Jack and the cessation of murders, one portion of which I found highly plausible, given the culture and legal climate of the time. It would certainly account for his climatic absence.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.***
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
A Phineas Fox mystery set in London in the present time and the 1880’s/1890’s. Phineas Fox is researching background for a music biography on a Franz Listz a music composer.
In an old bookshop near St martin’s Lane Phineas finds some interesting books with references to a music hall performer who had some connections with Listz. In one of the old books there was a mysterious sketch that leads to further research.
Phineas is helped by his friends Toby and Arabella as he sifts through evidence. The documents they find go back to the 1880’s and the time of Jack the Ripper, Music Halls and a performer called Scaramel.
The story is fast paced as it switches between the present time and the 1880’s/1890’s. I loved the way the evil was portrayed in the present time and back in the time of Jack the Ripper. This was a historical murder mystery about composers, music and music hall performers. I have loved reading Sarah Rayne mysteries for many years.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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 Goodreads.)

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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?