Sunday, December 19, 2010

Crimal Underworld meets corrupt opera house?

Don't worry, the corrupt exists in the fictional world of Bradley Garvin's novel, With the Voice of Angels (he sang the role of Scarpia BLO's Tosca!)

Our friends over at Candid Culture wrote a candid, but positive review of the singer's writing debut. KER writes:

In With the Voice of Angels opera singer Bradley Garvin crafts a murder mystery within the text of an opera house. Contrasting the elaborate and often absurdly high drama/high stakes of the opera with the life and death stakes of organized crime, Garvin creates a world in which the good guys are truly good and the bad guys are exceptionally bad.

Using common harbingers of character - generosity, love and humanity abound for all the good guys while the bad guys are all guys who are either cowardly or violent and all are greedy. There is no gray area in Garvin's novel - one is either corrupt and morally defunct or one is righteous and self-sacrificing. Garvin uses his extensive background as an opera singer to his benefit as he sets the scene on the opening night of Tosca. Pucccini's classic, filled with passionate love and betrayals, serves as the ideal backdrop for the dirty dealings of the novel's villains.

Set at the fictional Chicago Grande Opera - a company recently requiring monetary rescuing - the story focuses on rising opera star Enzo Santi, the crime he witnesses and the perpetrators who need him to never speak of said crime. Santi as witness complicates the perfect crime housed within the bowels of the opera house, creating seemingly insurmountable challenges for those pesky bad guys. The bad guys subsequently complicate Santi's life. Luckily for Santi he loooooooves his wife A LOT and she loooooooooves him back A LOT. Additionally, one of Santi's old friends is a private detective, who has a long time friend who gets off on setting up elaborate surveillance equipment to perfectly capture activities of the underworld. While those in power at the opera house and the police may turn a blind eye, Santi has a rag tag team of indefatigable misfits, who wish to lay down life and limb against an enormous criminal network. Perhaps Garvin's intent was to exploit the melodramatic elements of operatic storytelling in his own work as With the Voice of Angels has more than one operatic quality.

Garvin fills his novel with the twists and turns required of such complex criminal happenings. His style emphasizes heavy description - from the lavishly rebuilt opera house to the frequent chase/fight scenes necessitated by the plot. At times I wished for less description and more clarity regarding the complicated criminal network, however, Garvin holds out with quite a few surprises in the final moments. While there is a clear delineation of good and bad in this novel, there were many moments when my heart sank and I worried that the bad guys had outsmarted the good guys once and for all! At the outset I was certain only good would triumph, but Garvin had me guessing.  With a strong background in the setting and a clear passion for life imitating his art, Garvin demonstrates potential offstage.


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