The Lost Concerto
by Helaine Mario
on Tour August 1-31, 2015
A woman and her young son flee to a convent on a remote island off the Breton coast of France. Generations of seafarers have named the place Ile de la Brume, or Fog Island. In a chapel high on a cliff, a tragic death occurs and a terrified child vanishes into the mist.
The child’s godmother, Maggie O’Shea, haunted by the violent deaths of her husband and best friend, has withdrawn from her life as a classical pianist. But then a recording of unforgettable music and a grainy photograph surface, connecting her missing godson to a long-lost first love.
The photograph will draw Maggie inexorably into a collision course with criminal forces, decades-long secrets, stolen art and musical artifacts, and deadly terrorists. Her search will take her to the Festival de Musique, Aix-en-Provence, France, where she discovers answers to the mystery surrounding her husband’s death, an unexpected love—and a musical masterpiece lost for centuries.
A compelling blend of suspense, mystery, political intrigue, and romance, The Lost Concerto explores universal themes of loss, vengeance, courage, and love.
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: July 1st 2015
Number of Pages: 443
Helaine Mario grew up in New York City and is a graduate of Boston University. She has served on many nonprofit boards while residing in both Connecticut and Maryland.
A passionate advocate for women’s and children’s issues, she is the founder and president of The SunDial Foundation, which is connected to over 30 DC area nonprofits. Helaine and her husband, Ron, now live in Arlington, Virginia, and Sarasota, Florida. The Lost Concerto, her second novel, was inspired by her son Sean, a classical pianist.
5Ws with Helaine Mario:
Who in your life encouraged you to begin writing?
Two women I never met inspired me to write fiction – Helen MacInnes and Mary Stewart. Not teachers, but writers – queens of espionage novels and romantic suspense from 1941 through the 80’s. They taught me about suspense, courage and love, and they inspired me with their heroic women characters. I never took a writing class, but from these writers I learned about building page-turning suspense, finding a voice, dialogue that sounds natural, creating a believable and involving romance. Like those who went before me, my stories have international and evocative settings, political intrigue, timely plots and complex characters. The women in my novels, especially, are strong, intelligent, funny, accomplished and brave. Women who somehow find the courage to do the right thing no matter what.
I read every single one of these writers’ books. And I miss them.
What type of musical talents do you have? You write so passionately about the music world you must be a musician or, at the very least, a music lover.
Yes, I am passionate about music. But I have no musical talent. My husband and I had no musical instruments in our home when our children were young. I cannot read music, nor can I find middle C on the piano.
But – I do love music. Folk, Jazz, Broadway, Opera. Most especially, Classical. My son, Sean, began asking for piano lessons when he was five. We rented an old upright, convinced that he would lose interest within a few months. The months became years, and he graduated to a new upright, and then a grand piano – competing frequently in classical competitions. As I listened to him practice, I fell deeply, madly in love with the great pieces and composers – Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky.
When I decided to write this novel, I knew that my main character would have to be a classical pianist. But because I am not a musician, that meant research. Hours and hours and hours of research. I talked to musicians, and I read about musical expressions, instruments, composers, and the most beautiful symphonies and concertos. The good news is that one article on music led to lost music, and that article led to music lost during World War II, and – voila! – a plot was born. With music as a key character.
An anecdote about character and music – I happened to glance through a gift catalog and saw a cheap t-shirt for sale with an amusing music quote. Aha! From that moment on, my pianist Maggie wore a collection of music t-shirts with quotes like “don’t shoot the piano player.’ It’s this little something extra, the polishing, that rounds out your characters and gives them heart and soul, brings them to life. And keeps the music theme up front and personal.
Finally, you might be interested to know that in my ‘author’s notes’ at the end of The Lost Concerto I list a dozen classical pieces for the reader that play a role in this story.
When can we look for another book from you? Can we have a sneak peek at the title or plot?
I now am writing my third novel of suspense and hope to finish it in early 2016. My first two novels, Firebird and The Lost Concerto, are ‘stand-alone’ novels with their own individual storylines and characters. I want this third novel to be a sequel for sure. My problem is that I still love both stories and all my characters from each of the previous novels. So, whose story do I continue? Both of my main women characters, Alexandra from Firebird and Maggie from The Lost Concerto, absolutely deserve their own stories and sequels.
As of now, my work in progress is titled Woman in Shadows. It continues the ‘missing art’ storyline from The Lost Concerto, and includes my Lost Concerto characters Simon Sugarman and Zachary Law. My main characters, however, will be my art curator Alexandra, Agent Garcia and the Russian Yuri Belankov, all from Firebird. As in Firebird, Alexandra will have her own personal agenda involving a family mystery and her search for a priceless, long lost painting.
So far the settings are New York City and Vienna. And now I have learned that I want to have music in all my novels, so I have a new character – the cellist Hannah. Also, because I believe several generations of characters make the relationships and plot more interesting, I’ve been surprised by a young Russian teen with a secret. And lately a symphony conductor has been slipping into my mind, demanding to be heard. To be continued…
The Lost Concerto took its characters all over the world, of the many places mentioned in your novel where would you like to go?
Boston is one of my favorite cities in the world. I went to Boston University and fell in love with this strong, beautiful city. I worked there, met my husband there, walked the cobbled streets when I was happy and when my heart was broken. We still return every October, just ‘because.’ It’s no wonder that I would want to set Maggie’s music shop in Boston.
As for my European settings… I always will go back to Paris in a heartbeat. My husband’s international business gave me an opportunity to visit this glorious city many times over the years, and I wandered and got to know so many of the neighborhoods – the ‘arrondisments.’ The Marais, the Left Bank, Invalides, Montmartre, Ile de la Cite… I had the time to find the intimate and ‘out of the way’ places, and these, in turn, found their way into my novel. The Bird Market, the cemetery of Pere Lachaise, Notre Dame’s tower walkway, the houseboats along the Seine, Musee d’Orsay. There are scenes set in all of these evocative places, and more.
Having said this… I would go back to the South of France in a heartbeat as well. The lavender, the abbeys, the ocher villages, the scent of olive trees, the outdoor markets and cafes, the distant glimpse of bright sea. There is no other place quite like it.
And then there is my first novel, Firebird… I am a New Yorker who loves art, and so my character Alexandra is an art curator on the Upper West side. And because I worked at the White House, in the office of the Vice President, during the 8 years of Clinton/Gore… well, of course Firebird is rife with Washington‘s political intrigue.
I recently returned from my first visit to Vienna, and was so taken by the Opera House and the Lipizzaner stallions that I have set several scenes in my third book there – the work in progress is Woman in Shadows.
Finally, if I could choose a new place to visit, a place I’ve never been, I would visit big sky Montana, and Washington’s San Juan Islands. I am absolutely certain that beautiful, complex new characters would walk toward me from the ferry, or out of the deep green forests.
Why does grief and mourning play an important part in both your novels?
As usual, for me there is an easy answer and a far more complicated one.
Easy first. As a writer, more than anything, I want people to really care about my characters. I have learned that most readers want to like a character, invest in them, have empathy, feel for them.
For me, the most interesting characters are those who have some difficulty, struggle or loss to overcome. Readers will respond very strongly to a character who is conflicted, trying to deal with a loss, trying to overcome pain and sorrow, trying to find the courage to move on. The heart of the story then becomes how they move on. And hopefully the reader will want to take the journey with them.
The more complicated answer is that, at my age, I am losing people I love. We have lost many dear friends, and I am very close to several women who have suddenly become widows. I see the grief and loss in their eyes, the confusion and distance… I’ve learned that every person must grieve in their own way, in their own time. Some will move on, and some will not. And so, in creating the characters of Alexandra and Maggie, I really am trying to imagine the unimaginable – my own grief, and how I would react to loss. In a way these scenes are my own “year of magical thinking.”
While there are many moments in life that we cannot change or control, I know that it’s how we deal with what happens to us that matters. This is when we learn who we truly are. This always will be a theme in my novels.
This is a giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Helaine Mario & Oceanview Publishing. There will be ONE U.S. winner of a physical book copy of The Lost Concerto by Helaine Mario. The giveaway is open to US residents only. The giveaway begins on Aug 1st, 2015 and runs through Aug 31st, 2015. Stop by our tour stops too because several of them are giving away signed print copies of The Lost Concerto by Helaine Mario! a Rafflecopter giveaway
Check out my review of The Lost Concerto on Building Bookshelves.