Review: A Fugue In Hell's Kitchen: A Katy Green Mystery

A Fugue In Hell's Kitchen: A Katy Green Mystery A Fugue In Hell's Kitchen: A Katy Green Mystery by Hal Glatzer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Note: This review was originally written in the early 2000s and published for a no longer running website: AudiobookCafe. This review is focused on both the book and audiobook. Barbara Rosenblat deserves plenty of respect. Besides winning the Audie for Best Female Narrator two years in a row, she has promoted and encouraged the growth of audiobooks at conferences and interviews across the country. She has become an icon for audiobooks over the years, narrating hundreds and developing a fan base of listeners who would listen to her read a latin thesaurus if she were so inclined and publishers were willing to put it forth. So it goes without saying that her latest production with Hal Glatzer, “A Fugue In Hell’s Kitchen” meets all expectations, as Rosenblat performs her one-woman full-cast audio dramatization. This audiobook plays itself as a prequel to the audio-dramatization, “Too Dead To Swing,” which was a full cast dramatization also featuring Rosenblat.

Set in New York in 1939, “A Fugue in Hell’s Kitchen” focuses on the events at the Meyers Conservatory, where a rare and expensive original Paganini script has been stolen from Amalia Lee Chen. For fear of the trouble it would cause her, Amalia calls upon her friend Katy Green to help her determine what happened to the stolen script. Once upon the scene, Katy’s investigation brings up a wide range of suspects and characters from the students to the school’s president to a local gang of thugs and even the librarian; however, it’s safe to say the butler didn’t do it, since there is no butler. But as she continues to pry, Katy discovers numerous inconsistencies about the missing script and the prior principal, who was murdered the previous winter. While Katy desires to find the script and save Amalia from humiliation and dismissal from the school, she also wants to keep breathing which becomes increasingly harder as she finds herself threatened on several occasions.

Katy Green’s character can be quite enjoyable. Between her actions and the grade “A” performance by Rosenblat, Katy comes across as a sassy, resourceful, flirtatious, witty, insightful and independent woman, willing to break social norms and be proud of it. A very contemporary woman. That’s probably her biggest flaw; she seems flawless as today’s ideal woman but in a story that took place over 60 years ago, she feels a bit anachronistic. Her PC-oriented acceptance of all races, creeds, orientations, and religions are hard to accept on top of her sexual prowess and free-spirited existence. This stands out as the audiobook’s biggest flaw but a mild one in comparison to all of its qualities.

Music aficionados will enjoy the various pieces played throughout this production and even the neophyte receives some education about classical music. All the musical pieces and references fit fantastically into this audiobook, feeling natural and appropriate. The sound effects of this production are also tight. While the production feels like the classic radio dramatizations of yesteryear, the quality and clarity are unmatched. Interestingly at one point, there is a radio announcement and the sound engineer manages to reflect the fuzzier sound quality of old time radio shows.

Hal Glatzer writes Katy as a very loveable and personable character, but there’s no doubt that Rosenblat takes her to the next level. She rounds out Katy in ways that no book ever could. Her tone and demeanor while discussing certain events or people give the listener such depth and further understanding of the story.

“A Fugue In Hell’s Kitchen” serves both as a great story and a great introduction to the finer points of classical music that your average person might not know. Delivered by great talent, both vocally and musically, this audiobook will be certain to keep listens enthralled and waiting for the next Katy Green installment.

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