He is a reclusive history professor
She a headstrong professor of religion, a converted Wiccan. Earlier, they solved a campus murder, but now police say they formed two-thirds of an illicit love triangle with a newly-murdered female colleague and they're probably guilty of her murder.
Earlier, they solved a campus murder, but now police say they formed two-thirds of an illicit love triangle with a newly-murdered female colleague and they're probably guilty of her murder. A leak of the alleged scandal to the college administration threatens their jobs.
Their desperate attempt to prove themselves innocent of the triangle and the murder plunges them into a tangle of unsavory corporate relationships among college trustees. And it puts their lives in danger from a mysterious criminal organization that seems to have tentacles everywhere.
Can this ill-matched pair's stumbling efforts succeed against the entrenched forces of the police, the college's incompetent administration, and that powerful but unseen criminal organization? If not, they may end up unemployed, in prison, or suffering a fate much worse .
Published by: Lamplighter Mysteries
Here’s what others are saying about Murder Mezzo Forte:
"If Donn Taylor has as much fun writing mysteries as his fans have in reading them, he and his writings will remain forever ageless. The first sentence will make you want to keep reading."
--Roger E. Bruner, Author of The Devil and Pastor Gus,
"Bravissimo! Music, mayhem, and murder. Donn Taylor delivers another delightful mystery full of surprises, sarcasm, puns, and edge-of-your-seat plot twists—a winner for sure!"
--Sadie and Sophie Cuffe,
"In his distinctive voice, Donn Taylor delivers a murder mystery set to music—even if the musical accompaniment is only in Professor Barclay's head."
--Mary Hamilton, Author of Hear No Evil
"Author Donn Taylor brings to life Professor Preston Barclay in Murder Mezzo Forte. Soon, you'll find yourself trying to help the professor escape the mortal coils of this intricate plot."
--James Callan, Author of Over My Dead Body
Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Murder Mezzo Forte
In that first week of February we didn't know that Overton University was about to exceed its annual quota of murders.
We had no inkling of it that Thursday evening when the college administration held a reception for trustees and faculty. I didn't know then that Professor Mitra Fortier would make trouble or that I would have to defend myself against scandal and worse. We would learn all of that later.
The administration called it a reception, but it had no receiving line. Everyone just showed up at the gymnasium, now called "The Fitness Center" because the new president who joined us after The Crisis renamed everything either a Center or a Service. Faculty straggled in half frozen by the Midwestern winter and joined whatever groups they could find. The event had been billed as a mixer, but it didn't mix. Trustees talked to trustees, the president and dean talked to trustees, and faculty cliques talked to themselves. Yet everyone seemed to share an unspoken purpose: to forget that last semester our philosophy professor had murdered a faculty member on campus.
Someone had thrown a tarp over half of the gym floor so our street shoes wouldn't scar the finish. The gym's bright overhead lights cast an air of unreality over everything. Perhaps because of them I started wondering what was real and what wasn't.
I stood alone at one side, battling the music in my head and grieving for receptions past when my wife, Faith, was alive. We talked to everyone then. But now, as the campus recluse, I don't talk much at all. As always, I dreaded returning to my empty house and Faith's Steinway grand piano that has stood silent these past three years.
With any luck, I thought, I wouldn't have to talk to anyone. So I simply listened while the orchestra in my head played the overture to Die Meistersinger. This internal music came to me at Faith's death, and it's all I have left of her now. It's not just a tune here and there, but a torrent that floods my life with imagined sound. The clinical name is "musical hallucinations." They make my life like a movie that's been mismatched with the music score from another.
So I watched from the sideline, as neglected as the third stanza of a hymn, while the music for once assuaged my grief. Then a trustee walked up and broke the spell.
"Professor Barclay," he said. "I'm Steven Drisko." He put out his hand.
"I'm Preston Barclay," I said. I took the offered hand. It isn't often a trustee seeks out a mere faculty member.
This one looked about ten years younger than I, which made him about forty. All I knew about him was that as CEO of Overton Technologies, Inc., he'd doubled his company's stock value. That made him Overton City's favorite son, and some thought it should earn him canonization. He wore a tailored suit that must have cost an arm and a leg, but in the economic sense he was rumored to be a centipede.
Drisko wasted no time on preliminaries. "Congratulations on solving the Laila Sloan murder. What will you investigate next?"
"Nothing," I said. I adjusted my trifocals and tried not to look self-conscious. "I just teach history." Everything in the gym seemed more unreal, a fantasy dreamed up by my subconscious.
Drisko smiled. "Won't you find that dull after your adventures last semester?"
"There's nothing dull about history," I said. "It's a wonderful panorama of human accomplishment and failure."
My internal musicians replaced Wagner with a pianist playing Paderewski's "Minuet."
"Well," Drisko said, "Thanks for a good job that helped the college."
He returned to the crowd of trustees and administrators. None too soon, for his statuesque blond wife seemed to be having too good a time with younger trustees who'd come without their wives.
"Press, I need to talk to you." The bold feminine voice belonged to Mitra Fortier, a physics professor who'd been a good friend to Faith. Mitra was a multi-talented woman of about forty, divorced long ago and devoted to her work. In past years she'd had carefully coifed golden hair that looked like combed corn silk. Tonight it looked like a haystack after a tornado passed through.
"Don't look so serious," I said. "This is a festive occasion."
"Don't hand me that, Press." Mitra's frown deepened. "You know as well as I do how everybody feels." She'd always been a just-the-facts realist.
"What do you want to talk about?" I asked. At the time it seemed like a safe question.
"I need your help with an investigation."
"I'm through investigating," I said. "From here out I just teach history."
Mitra gave me a look like my drill sergeant gave me decades ago in basic training, and she snapped, "If you value your job, Preston Barclay, you'll help me out in this."
That got my attention. We work on annual contracts here with no provision for tenure. Since Faith died, my job is all the life I have left.
"Not here," Mitra said. She cast an apprehensive glance around the gym. "Come to my office when this thing is over." She spun on her heel and stalked away.
Suddenly, the scene in the gym seemed as surreal as a painting by Salvador Dali. The refreshments looked real enough, though. Beside their table I saw the slender figure and shoulder-length blond hair of Professor Mara Thorn, my co-investigator from the previous semester. She was always very, very real. She wore a business-like navy pantsuit but no perfume or cosmetics. As I approached, her blue eyes flickered in friendship, then retreated into inscrutability as she moved out of earshot of the student servers.
I followed and said, "I see we're still the faculty pariahs."
"Yes, but we mustn't be seen together." A frown darkened the glow of her ivory complexion. "We can't afford those unsavory rumors. I need this job."
"Rumors are a constant on this campus," I said. "You just have to ignore them."
Mara speared me with her blue gaze. "I hear that our contracts come out in the week after the trustees meet. We both can forget about them if the administration finds out about you-know-what."
To read the rest of chapter 1, and the book:
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