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Ballistics at the Ballet (A Musical Murder Mystery, #2) by B.J. Bowen 

Emily Wilson returns in this excellent follow-up in the Musical Murder Mystery series. 

Emily Wilson is the second flutist in the Monroe (Colorado) Symphony, and for her, Christmas means a new season of The Nutcracker. But this year, rehearsals are proving difficult. The symphony’s conductor, Felix Underhayes, arrogant, demeaning, and petty most days, has been a monster from the start of the run. From his unreasonable demands to belittling, embarrassing, and blaming the musicians for his own mistakes to hitting on some of their wives, everyone has had their fill of Felix. So when he’s murdered in his dressing room before the final dress rehearsal, no one but his wife and children appear to grieve for him. 

It soon comes to light that Emily’s nephew, Charlie McRae, a percussionist and frequent target of Felix’s malevolence, was overheard having a heated argument with the deceased only moments before his death. He may have been the last person to see Felix alive, and the police take notice. Police Lieutenant Gordon, satisfied that Charlie is the killer, arrests him and stops looking at other possible suspects. Emily, her sister, Kathleen (Charlie’s mother), and the sisters’ own mother team up to track down the real murderer and prove Charlie’s innocence. 

Meanwhile, Emily discovers one of her prize music students is having big trouble at home. The teenager’s father and mother are going through a rough time and don’t realize that she and her siblings are witnesses to the screaming and shouting and behind-closed-doors domestic violence. When Megan opens up to Emily about what’s going on, Emily must decide how to handle her confidences and get help for the hurting family before the violence escalates further. 

Ballistics at the Ballet is a great follow-up to B.J. Bowen’s Musical Murder Mystery series debut, Music is Murder. But, despite this being the second book in the series, you don’t have to have read the first one to enjoy it. Amateur sleuth and flutist Emily Wilson returns along with favorites KC (another flutist) and Golden, Emily’s dog. And there are plenty of new faces to enjoy as well. 

Once again, Emily takes on the role of investigator, this time to clear her nephew of murder. Her process of eliminating all the suspects (and excellent red herrings) was very well done. The story is told in the first person, so we are privy to her thought processes and doubts about the case all along the way. 

Emily is just a nice woman, getting her life back together after ending a bad, abusive marriage. She can relate to the other women in this story who are experiencing similar violence in their lives and Charlie’s plight, too, having been in his position in book one. In both situations, she carefully tries to help without going overboard (unlike Sister and Mom) in her efforts to gain information. Kathleen, the understandably worried mom, and their mother are a delightful pair of loose cannons. I LOVED the instant attraction between Kathleen and Lt. Gordon, and I liked seeing how their friendship knocked off some of his sharp edges. 

The setting behind the scenes at the mounting of a production of The Nutcracker was engaging, fun, and fascinating, despite the murder. I enjoyed seeing all the preparations the symphony went through and the massive amount of coordination required to meld them, the traveling ballet troupe, and the local children’s ballet companies/classes into one magical production during the holiday season. 

With its well-conducted amateur investigation, likable characters, and behind-the-scenes look at the iconic Christmas ballet, I recommend BALLISTICS AT THE BALLET for cozy mystery readers, especially those interested in the symphony, ballet, The Nutcracker, and stories set during the winter holidays. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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