Paul Adam

(Jump over to read a review of Paganini's Ghost)

"The Rainaldi Quartet"

(Reviewed by Mary Whipple MAY 1, 2006)

"[This violin is] a work of art to rank alongside the "Mona Lisa," the Divine Comedy, the operas of Verdi.  It's a masterpiece as great as anything Michelangelo produced, as profound as a Beethoven symphony, as sublime and universal as a Shakespeare tragedy.  To me, it is one of the most beautiful objects ever created by man.  Think of jewels, think of a thousand glittering cut diamonds….They are nothing.  This violin is more beautiful than any of them….It creates a sound, a music more heavenly, more inspiring than every jewel, every painting, every poem in history put together."

The Rainaldi Quartet by Paul Adam

When Gianni Castiglione, a 63-year-old violin-maker who lives just outside of Cremona, meets the three friends with whom he has played string quartets for fifteen years, he has no way of knowing that within hours one of these friends, Tomaso Rainaldi, will be found stabbed to death in his workshop.  Tomaso has been looking for a missing Stradivari, "The Messiah's Sister," supposedly a twin to "Le Messie" ("The Messiah"), the most famous and most valuable violin on earth.  Now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, "Le Messie," played only twice during its existence, it is reputed to be worth over ten million dollars.  Castiglione tells Antonio Guastafeste, a detective with the Questura, who is also a member of Rainaldi's quartet,  that if "another perfect, untouched Stradivari," such as "The Messiah's Sister" were to come onto the open market, "That would be an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime, maybe once in several lifetimes, if ever.  A lot of people would be interested," and even willing to kill for it.

As Castiglione and Guastafeste search for Rainaldi's killer by trying to recreate Rainaldi's last days and his search for "The Messiah's Sister," they must delve into all facets of violin history, craftsmanship, and ownership;  the nature of collectors—who they are and what they are willing to do to complete their collections;  fakes and how they are created;  the importance of documentation and provenance;  and the use of archives, letters, and even paintings as clues to the history of missing instruments.  As they investigate a variety of competing collectors and the history of rare and valuable violins, Castiglione and Guastafeste travel to Venice, the moors of rural England, a small town on the Po River, London, and various locations in and around Cremona.  The concert debut of Rainaldi's young granddaughter and a London auction of rare violins are full of breathtakingly exciting moments, adding color and insights into the lives of serious violinists and collectors, and broadening the reader's understanding of Castiglione and emphasizing his commitment to his business and to his friend Rainaldi. 

Though the stories and ownership of the various violins mentioned here are complex, the author's insights into the secret world of violin collecting and its values manage to keep the reader on tenterhooks throughout. The drama is further developed through the character of the narrator, Gianni Castiglione, a man with whom the reader empathizes, and whose interior monologues and thoughts about Tomaso Rainaldi and other people in his life who have died make his personal reactions to the unfolding events particularly moving. His kindness and sensitivity to those around him make his confession of a crime when he was a young man all the more dramatic. 

Additional deaths, mysterious strangers, a dotty old woman surrounded by cats, a jealous violin teacher, ancient letters, an unusual portrait, an old castle partially destroyed by fire, a visit to a graveyard at night, and a life or death confrontation and chase inject romantic and melodramatic elements into this challenging mystery and keep the action and excitement at a high pitch as the search for the mysterious "Messiah's Sister" draws to its conclusion.  Music lovers will thrill at this unusual mystery with its insights into the society of serious violin collectors, a novel that is carefully plotted and constructed, filled with a high level of unusual detail, and great fun to read.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 12 reviews

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Bibliography: (with links to

Gianni Castiglione and Antonio Guastafeste series:

Max Cassidy Series:


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About the Author:

Paul Adam grew up in the north of England, and studied law at Nottingham University. He began his writing career as a journalist and has worked in Rome as well as England. He lives in Sheffield, England, with his wife and two children. About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014