Nocturne In Ashes by Joslyn Chase is Book One of A Riley Forte Suspense Thriller series. This novel goes beyond only entertainment. It is informative and introduced me to several subplot areas that I have never seen put together in such an informed way. Some novels I think of as good reads; this novel was a good reading experience. My Kindle app informed me the novel has 394 pages and should take me 5 hours 44 minutes to read. It took me exactly the predicted time for reading the novel in one session. It is a page turner, but I cheated a bit while reading when I looked up a few words and even went to YouTube to find some of the referenced music.
To attempt a description of the overall plot would risk too many spoilers so I will address a few subplots identifying key characters. Joslyn Chase skillfully connects subplots, then injects a few surprises, then connects things again in an interesting cycle; weave, disassemble, weave, repeat. With each subplot, the author presents an impressive depth of knowledge that came from her experiences but also extensive research. On page 383 of my Kindle edition, the reader will find “Author’s notes.” The notes are worth reading. They answered the first question I had after reading sample chapters. How can one person have so much detailed knowledge of so many diverse areas?
The novel begins with a killing. An unnamed killer has a belief that he must occasionally kill to make mother happy. The killings must follow a specific ritual. Those killed would be happy and even thank their killer if they knew how honorable their sacrifice was, at least that is the perception of the killer. His best boyhood friend had not expressed appreciation when he realized he would be the first victim. After that, with only a couple of exceptions, the killer had stopped trying to explain to his victims how privileged they were.
The reader will find accounts of Riley Forte, a concert pianist. The name “Forte” has the accent on the first syllable. Riley plays classical music. I will demonstrate my ignorance of all things music when I state that I think a concert pianist could play music that is not solely classical. Riley is the character that sent me to YouTube where I downloaded some of the classical selections Riley was attempting in her first comeback concert bid. I found it fun to read the novel while listening to the music cited.
Riley has an interesting mental view of music. She sees patterns and attempts to make connections that inspire her to “feel” the music. She gives private piano lessons and tries to train students in techniques so that they will see patterns. There is an interesting instructional resource Chase describes in Author Notes. Riley is a troubled artist unable to get through performances after the loss of her husband and son. She must get past the grieving process if she ever wants to perform again. Life doesn’t wait for her to grieve; unexpected events occur in her life to which she must react. A volcanic disaster, potentially the worst disaster ever in the United States, will trap her in her small, closely knit community of Mountain Vista. Everyone knows almost everything about everyone else. But someone is lying, and that person is a threat to Riley’s life.
Topper is the next character to appear with an interesting tale. I know little about music; I might know even less about volcanoes. Topper knows a lot and lives most of his life in the mountains. He works as a field agent for the Seismology Lab at the University of Washington. Topper has been fascinated by volcanoes ever since he saw a seismic event as a child. As the reader meets him, he is preparing to give final warnings of an imminent volcanic eruption of Mt. Rainier. The eruption that happens will isolate Riley in her community.
Nate and Rick are a couple of detectives who have just been assigned a case to find a serial killer. Rick is a novice detective and must succeed in his first case. Nate is the temporary lead detective also highly motivated to solve this high-profile case. The two detectives will separate in following leads. While separated, Mt.Ranier will blow up and make communication between the two impossible. Nate will be stranded in Mountain Vista. Rick will learn information that he knows Nate must have. How can the two get together?
Rick will make several attempts to get to Mountain Vista, but the most interesting will be the helicopter attempts. Finally, something I know a little bit about. I am impressed by the research the author has done. Joslyn Chase made me feel like I was in the helicopter. Until someone fell out. Almost.
The novel is far more complex than I have outlined in my brief character sketches. Nocturne in Ashes is a five Amazon star read. I am thrilled when I read something that entertains and educates. Here are a few things that made this an enjoyable reading experience.
Geoscientists primarily monitor three predictive factors for a volcanic eruption—thrust faults, earthquakes, and tiltmeter readings. (p.29). I didn’t know this fun fact from science, and I live in Indonesia on an island with an active volcano. Falling volcanic ash makes a garage or carport a necessity. Motorcycle riders wear masks. I need to read more.
“lahars” (p. 43) Think of flash floods but with snow, rocks, broken trees, and debris rolling downhill at 40 mph.
“What’s a gooey duck?” (p.51). I had to look this up. I never want to meet one, let alone eat one.
“she reviewed some chord theory and introduced C.P.E. Bach’s Solfeggietto, pointing out how the patterns are established” (p. 219). I liked researching to figure out what this meant.
“Rachmaninoff, next, the militant maneuvers of the Prelude, Op. 23, No. 5, building, firming, triumphant, with the heart-tugging arpeggios halfway through” (p. 266). Same.
“The playful doctor gradus ad parnassum came next,” (p. 266). Same.
This novel should be of great interest to musicians, especially pianists. I liked being forced to learn new things. New information on music was the most interesting part of the novel for me, but this is also a very good mystery. I could not predict the “principal” surprising ending. There is more than one surprise ending. I highly recommend this book for the complexity of diverse backgrounds and subplots.