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by Hal Glatzer
John Daniel and Co, March 2004
240 pages
ISBN: 1880284707

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Katy Green is a musician living in New York. She went to a conservatory to study longhair or classical music; however, most orchestras do not hire women. To make ends meet, Katy plays in swing bands and gives private lessons. One of her friends from school, Amalia Chen, needs help. After playing a piece by Niccolo Paganini, the musical score is stolen out of Amalia's viola case.

The Meyer Conservatory, which is where Chen works, wants this score back. The score is important because it is the original manuscript written by the author. While this does not make the piece priceless, the piece does retain more than monetary value. Katy is not a detective; however, she vows to find the missing score and keep Amalia out of prison.

While A FUGUE IN HELL'S KITCHEN was not written until after World War II, it captures the fears, tensions and conflicts that led up to the war. This book also gives a brief look at the opinions of musicians regarding swing music vs. classical and hints at the racism and bigotry that existed in both the music world and in general society. Katy must deal with all of these issues. As a woman she is excluded from playing as a professional classical musician due to her gender. In addition, she does like swing and it helps to pay the bills but she misses playing true music. While Katy does not actually deal with racism and bigotry she does see it in the interactions around her. This dichotomy in her life is simply an example of the confusion faced by many as the music and the times slowly changed.

Katy Green is a very independent woman existing in a world that still does not completely accept liberated women. Swing music and the flapper movement did create societal changes; the majority of the population was still conservative. By pursuing a younger man and refusing to marry Katy demonstrates her own ideas of morality and freedom. This type of conflict can be seen in all of the characters within this book. They are all attempting to find themselves a place and situation, which allows them to be who they are; yet, it also allows them to fit in with those around them. Hal Glatzer most likely intended this struggle to be the undertone of this book; it is the one element that remained with me once I finished the book.

A FUGUE IN HELL'S KITCHEN is the second book published in the Katy Green series; however, this is the first book in the series.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, January 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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