Ballistics at the Ballet by B.J. Bowen – Many Musings: Mostly Musical – The Nutcracker Ballet

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

About Ballistics at the Ballet

Ballistics at the Ballet (A Musical Murder Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Setting – Colorado
Camel Press (September 14, 2022)
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 248 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1684920329
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1684920327
Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09X3M6ZVL

When temperamental conductor Felix Underhayes is killed before a rehearsal of the Nutcracker ballet, everyone realizes the show must go on. At an already crazy time of year, things become more complicated when Emily Wilson’s nephew, percussionist Charlie McRae, is accused of the crime. Emily’s sister, Kathleen, and their mother arrive to help prove Charlie’s innocence, but in spite of their best intentions, their efforts do more to hinder the police investigation than to help. To secure justice for her nephew, can Emily juggle performances and family dynamics, while she dodges a demented killer who wants to silence her?


By B.J. Bowen

There are certain things classical musicians do every year: Strauss Waltzes at New Years; Romeo and Juliet at Valentines Day; Bach Cantatas at Easter; 1812 Overture on 4th of July; Night on Bald Mountain at Halloween; the Messiah at Christmas. As an oboe/English horn player, I always looked forward to the Nutcracker Ballet, also at Christmas. Many families make it a tradition to go every year. The community can participate. It is based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s 1816 story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”. Besides the adult dancers, Tchaikovsky’s score calls for a soprano voice and alto choir. This often becomes a children’s choir. The mice can, and often are, played by a children’s ballet corps.

The plot is mainly an excuse for dancing. At a Christmas party given by her family, Clara, one of the children, receives a nutcracker shaped like a man. Her brother breaks it, but it is repaired by Dr. Drosselmyer, the local toymaker. After all the partygoers have gone, Clara falls asleep and dreams. When the clock strikes midnight, the nutcracker becomes a real man commanding a regiment of soldiers and battles the household mice, which have also become life-size. Following victory over the mice, the Nutcracker becomes a handsome prince and takes Clara to the Land of Sweets. In Act II, all semblance of plot disappears, and the ballet becomes a tour de force for the dancers. With dancers dressed as sweets, we are treated to Spanish, Arabian, and Russian dances. Danish shepherdesses perform, and Mother Ginger dances with her children (again a chance for the children’s ballet corps to participate); the corps de ballet perform Waltz of the Flowers, introduced by a harp cadenza, and the Sugar Plum Fairy and the prince perform a beautiful duet.

The original production was not popular, but in 1892 Tchaikovsky excerpted a 20-minute suite for concert performance, and that was a hit. The music of the suite is mainly music from the second act dances. Thus, when we hear the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy, the Russian Dance, the Arabian Dance, the Chinese Dance, the Dance of the Reed Flutes, or, perhaps the best known, the Waltz of the Flowers, we are listening to old favorites. The entire ballet became popular as a Christmas classic in the 1960’s.

In my book Ballistics at the Ballet, second flutist and reluctant amateur sleuth Emily Wilson has started rehearsals of the ballet with the symphony when the conductor is murdered, and her nephew accused of the crime. Since the ballet is so popular with audiences that it provides a major part of funding for the symphony, performances are not canceled, and Emily must try to exonerate her nephew as performances continue. When her sister and mother show up to help, things become more complicated, and Emily must try to sort out the performances, family dynamics, and the murder, all at once. Read Ballistics at the Ballet to find out whether, and how, she does it.

Does your life require a balancing act? Do special occasions, such as Christmas, have special requirements? Answer below in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

About B.J. Bowen

B.J. Bowen is a musician and free-lance writer whose love of music was awakened by her mother, who played the flute. After discovering her lips were the wrong shape and failing miserably as a flute player, at the age of eleven Ms. Bowen began studying oboe, and has since performed and recorded on both oboe and English horn with professional symphonies and cham[1]ber groups throughout Mexico and Colorado. Her inspirational articles have appeared in Unity Magazine and Daily Word, and she won Honorable Mention in the 2018 Focus: Eddy Awards for her article, “Letting Go with Grace,” published in Unity Magazine. Drawing on her quirky fellow musicians and orchestral experiences, she created the mystery series, “Musical Murders.” She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with two canine friends, and has a song for any occasion.

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As I opened the stage door, I heard Felix shout, “No!” followed quickly by a shot. My ears rang with the sound. It had to have been close…

A few fraught seconds later the exit door slammed, the ensuing silence broken only by Felix’s moaning. I decided the threat had gone and moved across the entry and down the hallway, toward Felix’s dressing room.

The prima ballerina’s door was closed. Next to it, the premier danseur emerged from his dressing room. “What’s happening?”

“I don’t know.” I crept cautiously forward, the dancer following.

The next door, Felix’s, stood open. He lay on the floor, groaning. And bleeding.

The danseur turned ashen and his chin trembled. “What . . . what . . .”

I spotted a cummerbund hung over a chair. “Take that cummerbund and press it over the wound on Felix’s chest. I’ll call 911.”

I pulled the phone from my pocket. “Send an ambulance and police to Fleisher Hall. A man’s been shot.”

The danseur knelt on one side of Felix, pressing the cummerbund to the conductor’s chest. I knelt on the other, holding Felix’s outstretched arm, his hand in mine. “It’s okay.” I tried to reassure him. “Help will be here soon.”

Felix whispered, “Tell her she’s the only one . . .”


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