cover image Ghost Music

Ghost Music

Alice McVeigh. Trafalgar Square Publishing, $27 (376pp) ISBN 978-1-85797-693-9

An old cello with a strange inscription and a resident ghost inspires McVeigh's second novel, which follows the characters introduced in While the Music Lasts, her witty debut about the members of a London orchestra. To escape his affair with viola player Isabel Bonner, cellist William Mellor leaves the Orchestra of London for the Royal Sinfonia, where a demanding, Polish-born conductor drives musicians to greater performances and personal desperation, while an observant Shakespeare-quoting orchestra manager performs damage control. William then buys an antique cello only to discover that it has magical qualities and plays as if possessed. When the cello debuts in the pit, a mysterious young woman also joins the orchestra. She seduces the conductor and attempts to seduce William, who is struggling to get back together with his estranged wife and forget Isabel. Neither a European tour, a libidinous harpist nor a scramble for orchestra funding can keep William from confronting the cello's true nature as well as his own. McVeigh defines an orchestra as ""a combination of the unlikely and the insufferable, attempting the impossible."" The same may be said of her novel, which smoothly harmonizes disparate themes and perspectives. Sexy, romantic and satirical, the narrative captivatingly chronicles personal politics and the world of music, ghostly and otherwise. (June) FYI: An American, McVeigh lives and works in England as a freelance cellist.