Orchestrated Murder

There’s something wrong down at Symphony Hall and it’s up to Detective Pratt and his new partner Ellis to sort it all out in a hurry!

Rick’s seventh novel is certainly out of the ordinary for him. First of all, it’s more of a novella than anything else, written for adults with literacy challenges or those for whom English is not their first language. Rapid Reads are also popular with readers who want to spend an hour or so enjoying a complete story. Taking a short plane trip? Waiting for an appointment with your doctor? Then this book might be just the ticket!

Here’s the first chapter of the novel to whet your appetites a bit...

Chapter 1

Pratt felt like pounding his head on his desk. Why couldn’t McDonnell just leave him alone today?

He felt every one of his fifty-four years as he walked past all the empty desks to the office of the man who ran the Homicide Division. His desk was as far away from the office as he could get it.

“What can I do for you?” Pratt asked.

Captain McDonnell looked up from the papers on his desk. “There’s a problem at Symphony Hall. A big problem.”


“I’ve just had a call from upstairs. Appears someone’s murdered the damn conductor.”

“Luigi Spadafini?”

“Yes – if he’s the conductor. I thought it would be right up your alley. You like this kind of music so much.”

“Thanks,” Pratt answered glumly.

What he wanted at the moment was a good nap, not another job. The previous night he’d been wrapping up a tricky case and got exactly three hours sleep on a sofa in an empty office he’d found. He had the stiff neck to prove it too.

“The chief wants you to tread delicately. That’s the other reason I’m sending you. You know how to act around the symphony set.”

“Anything else?”

McDonnell shook his head. “Nope. Just hustle down there. Once the press gets hold of the news, all hell’s going to break loose.” As Pratt turned to go, his boss added, “Take Ellis with you. Show him the ropes. This promises to be a little out of the ordinary.”

Just great. Saddled with the greenest member of the squad. Pratt didn’t even know the kid’s first name and didn’t care to. Hopefully, the young pup wouldn’t screw anything up.

As he went back to his desk, the captain called, “Good job last night, Pratt. You did us proud.”

Pratt bit his tongue. Then why not let someone else handle this job and let him go home?

Pratt let Ellis drive across town to the city’s latest municipal wonder. Built four years earlier to a lot of taxpayer squawking, Symphony Hall was beautiful outside, but cold and sterile. Inside, though, it was all wood and the sound quality was lovely. He’d heard Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony there the previous month, and it had been a concert he’d remember for a long time. Spadafini had been very impressive.

Now, Pratt’s head felt as if it was stuffed with sawdust. Great way to begin an investigation.

Ellis was a good looking lad. Tall and still lanky, a lot like Pratt was when he was that age. Thirty years later, he’d lost most of his hair and put on a good fifty pounds. At least he didn’t need glasses--yet.

Making conversation, he asked, “How long have you been in Homicide?

“Two weeks, sir,” Ellis answered.

“Seen any action yet?”

“Only that domestic murder last Friday. Terrible situation. Mostly I’ve been pushing papers.”

“So I heard.”

“I wanted to say that it’s an honor to be working with you.”

“I don’t need buttering up, Ellis. You’re here to make my life easier. Keep your eyes and ears open and try to stay out of my way.”

“My pleasure, sir.”

“And another thing, stop calling me ‘sir.’ Pratt will do.”

The coast was still clear as they pulled up at the backstage entrance. Surprisingly, the media hadn’t arrived yet. A beat cop Pratt recognized was standing next to the door, looking bored.

“Glad to have you aboard, sir,” he said. “It’s a mad house in there, I hear.”

“It’s going to be a madhouse out here too. Don’t let anyone in and don’t tell them anything.”


Pratt was very sorry later that he had just rushed by. He might have retired on the spot if he’d known about the unholy mess he was walking into.

At the vacant security desk just inside, a sergeant Pratt knew was waiting. Next to him stood a man wearing a suit and tie even though it was Saturday morning. He looked to be in his late thirties, medium height, slightly overweight.

“Glad they sent you, Pratt,” the sergeant said as they shook hands. “This is Michael Browne. He’s the symphony’s manager. He’s the one who called the murder in.”

Pratt knew Browne had to be competent to have this sort of job. At the moment, he looked pretty rattled and on edge.

More hand shaking as Pratt introduced Ellis.

“The situation is a real mess,” the sergeant added.

“Blood?” the detective asked. He hated the bloody ones.

“No, no. It’s the suspect list.”

“What about it?”

“The entire orchestra has confessed.”


Visit your favorite bookstore or order online: Orchestrated Murder. Raven Bks: Orca. (Rapid Reads). Oct. 2011. c.122p. ISBN 9781554698851. paperback. $9.95. Please click HERE.

“When the symphony conductor is murdered in his office during a rehearsal break, all members of the orchestra claim to be responsible. The investigating detectives have to break down a major stonewalling effort to find the individual who hated the talented and incredibly self-centered maestro enough to strangle him with a cello string. VERDICT: A vibrant closed-room police procedural sure to resonate with readers.” – Teresa L. Jacobsen, Library Journal

Rick talks about his new novel:

“I’ve never written a novel like Orchestrated Murder before – on so many fronts.

“When Orca Book Publisher’s, who are located out in Victoria, British Columbia contacted me to ask if I would be interested in submitting a book proposal for their new Rapid Reads line I was very flattered, of course, but also intrigued. I think the idea of good books for adults who have trouble reading is an idea that is a long time overdue. If you’re an adult who doesn’t read well, or English is not your second language, what do you do? For many, kids books or even young adult books are not an option.

“Enter Rapid Reads. My editor, and the guiding light behind Orca, is Bob Tyrrell and he’s a pretty canny guy. I was duly sent a couple of the early books in the series and was impressed with the quality of writing and production values. It took me a while to come up with a plot line that might work and it was at this time that I decided to push out in a lot of other directions (for me) with my story at the same time.

“So, when the dust settled I had a police procedural (something I’d never done) that introduces a homidice detective team, Pratt and Ellis, in an unnamed city somewhere in North America. If people (and Orca) like enough what they’ve read about my two detectives, it might well turn into a series (a second big change for me). Even though this book deals with a musical subject, it’s from a complete outsider’s point of view, and if the series continues, the next book might well have nothing to do with music (the last and biggest change).

Orchestrated Murder stands alone from anything I’ve written up to now and in reading it over in its final form, I have to say that I’m very satisfied with it. Writing a novel like this was not as easy as it would appear at first blush. One thing Bob told me at the beginning was that a simplified story line, short chapters and simplified vocabulary didn’t mean that I could get away with writing a weak book. I’d like to think that I succeeded, but ultimately, that’s up to readers to decide.”

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