An Eccentric in Lucca

Meet Penelope Strachan, the Contessa di Capezzani-Batelli. A first class pianist with a photographic memory, she holds sway over her Chamber Opera Group of Lucca (COGOL for short) in this historic Tuscan city, the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini amongst other notable composers.

You might ask how an English Rose became an Italian Contessa? This is revealed in the first book of the series, ERRANT ANGELS. These fallen ones are the various members of her precious COGOL. Their musical talents are only matched by the skeletons most of them have hanging in their cupboards. Crime rubs shoulders with the diving operatic creations of the masters.

In FEELINGS OF GUILT the Chamber Opera Group of Lucca is back for more music and misadventure. Led by the eccentric Contessa, who is plagued equally by nostalgia and the irksome behaviours of her vindictive dog and irascible housekeeper, COGOL is preparing for its latest fundraising concert, this time in aid of The Brook charity for working animals in the Middle East and India. She still feels great joy at the sounds produced by the group’s heavenly voices. However, their private lives are not nearly as angelic as their vocal harmonies.

Roberta with her copy of FEELINGS OF GUILT in the Tourist Information office in Lucca. One of the characters in the stories is based on her.

The third in the series, FAMILY CONCERNS, finds the Contessa still spreading her goodwill around Lucca. With the support of her son, Luigi, she embarks upon a project to extend the hospice premises set up in memory of her late husband, the Count. She also finds the time to support a young Scottish couple who have arrived in Lucca to set up shop, as she is worried that the public will have no taste for the fish and chips they are offering. Meanwhile, the members of COGOL are in disarray and personal rivalries almost threaten to get in the way of the performance. A fourth murder has also taken place and Questore Conti is no nearer to solving any of them.

The fourth book in this series, ROOM TO BREATHE, will be finished by the end of 2020. The Contessa and COGOL are back, but so is interference from organized crime, not to mention the sudden appearance of the housemaid’s brother, not seen since well over half a century before in an Irish orphanage. There is also the romantic attraction between Arthur Crowe, director of the Banda Inghiltalia, and the Contessa, who is concerned that the Count might be unhappy at the prospect, even though he has been dead for years.

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