Guest Post: Who Is This Guy, Anyway? By B.J. Bowen

With time running out, will Emily be able to evade the police, face her personal demons, and clear her name? — Music is Murder: A Musical Murder Mystery By B.J. Bowen

When I was working on my Musical Murders series, my writing group made me aware that they, and probably many of my readers, did not understand the musical terms I, a former professional classical musician, took for granted. We had fun laughing about my attempts to educate them about classical music. But when I realized they considered Herman’s Hermits “classical” and were confused when I said the oboist “gave” an “A,” I decided I had to do something. Rather than burdening the reader with an “information dump,” my protagonist, Emily Wilson, second flute of Colorado’s Monroe Symphony, explains musical terms through context. I am writing this blog. 

One of the questions the group had concerns the concertmaster. Who is he (or she)? Why is she so special? After going to a live concert, one friend asked, “Who is this guy, anyway? He’s the last one on stage before the conductor. Everybody claps. Then, he nods to the oboe, who plays a note which everybody imitates in a great cacophony; then he sits down and plays exactly the same part as all the other violins.”

That “guy” is the concertmaster.  Technically speaking, the concertmaster is the leader of the strings, the orchestra’s largest section, and the principal first violin. Many of the concertmaster’s duties are behind the scenes, including interpreting written music and suggesting coordinated bow movement (bowings), length of notes (articulation) and efficient fingering to best express the music. Otherwise, sixty strings may have sixty different ideas of the best bowings and articulations, and have difficulty staying together. The concertmaster also serves as the first violin section leader and plays any solos the first violin may have. In rehearsal, the concertmaster may give directions or make changes to bowings and articulations to respond to ideas the conductor has expressed. In performance, if things go south, the concertmaster “conducts” the strings, and maybe the entire orchestra, by moving her or his body to make certain everyone feels the beat together.

In writing Music is Murder, I went to great lengths to make all the musical terms clear. Of course, in order to avoid the aforementioned “information dump” or insult readers who might be familiar with classical music, I needed to make meanings unmistakable, but with a light hand, sensitive to balance. My protagonist is a wind player, so she doesn’t describe the concertmaster’s required duties in detail, but the responsibility of leading the strings and starting rehearsals and concerts by requesting the oboist’s tuning note is clear.

Have you ever been to a live classical music concert? Have you wondered about the function of the concertmaster?  What was your conclusion? Answer in the comment section. I look forward to reading your answers.


Music is Murder is the debut novel in the Musical Mysteries Series. When a musician is beaten to death with her own instrument, her closest friend, Emily, becomes the prime suspect. With the police get closer to aressting her for the murder Emily takes it on herself to investigate in order to clear her name. What follows is an intriguing insight into the inner workings of an organization where the only thing everyone has in common is the love of music and certain perfectionist tendencies. 

I was immediately taken in by the conversational tone of the narrative. This reads less like a cozy and more like a Perry Mason mystery. I enjoyed the introductions to the myriad of suspects each as likely as the last to have been involved in this murder. The victim was not well liked, even by her closest friends and family. I haven’t made up my mind about the police detective and his seeming insistence that  Emily is the murderer. It seems at first to be incompetence, but as she goes along, even Emily has to admit to the thoroughness of his investigation. I am interested to see if he is a recurring character in the series, because he and Emily do share a certain vibe.

I am not sure I have ever read a story about the inner workings of an orchestra. It would seem to me that the dynamic of a real life group that size might not survive all the shenanigans talked about in the book. Still, it is obvious that every person in the group makes a difference and even small mistakes or missing courtesies could throw off the feel of the whole.

This is a great first effort and I am curious to see where the story takes Emily next.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I received an advance review copy for free through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, and I am leaving this review voluntarily


When a symphony musician is murdered—bashed with her own bassoon—flute player Emily Wilson becomes the prime suspect. To save herself and secure justice for her murdered friend, she must find the killer.

In the close-knit, unforgiving environment of the symphony orchestra Emily makes her way through the tender egos and warped relationships of her fellow musicians to find tantalizing clues. Blackmail, the victim’s abusive ex-boyfriend, an angry neighbor, and a shifty Symphony Board member all lead her to feel she is on the right track.

With the dogged Lieutenant Gordon on her trail, she must flee from the police so she can continue her search. She unexpectedly finds a loyal female friend and the possibility of a new man in her life. But she must learn to trust again after her failed and abusive marriage. With time running out, will she be able to evade the lieutenant, face her personal demons, and clear her name?

Purchase Links – Amazon – B&N – Bookshop  – Target 

Barbara Bowen is a freelance writer. She was a finalist and Honorable Mention in the 2018 Focus: Eddy Awards for her article, “Letting Go with Grace,” published in Unity Magazine. Ms. Bowen is also an accomplished professional oboist who played with the Colorado Springs Symphony for nineteen years.

Drawing on her quirky fellow musicians and orchestral experiences, she created the mystery series, “Musical Murders.” The first is “Music is Murder” (Release date, 6-9-21). The second is “Ballistics at the Ballet” (Release date TBA) The third is “Fireworks on the Fourth” (Release date TBA).

She is a member of Sisters in Crime, lives in Colorado with two canine friends, and has a stock of musical puns and a song for any occasion. Contact Barbara at: www.barbarabowenauthor.com or www.bookbub.com/authors/b-j-bowen

Author Links

Website – www.barbarabowenauthor.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/barbara.bowen.5055
GoodReads – https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/86942163

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