1636: The Devil’s Opera involves the use of music as propaganda. (This is actually more interesting than the first line would indicate.) With Emperor Gustavus Adolphus non compos mentis and with Chancellor Oxenstierna attempting to take over the government, it suddenly becomes very important to make sure Magdeburg, the capitol city of the USE remains prominent in the minds of the populace. It’s decided that the best way to do this is with an opera showing support for the emperor. Various people are assembled to make this happen, including Marla Linder and her company of downtime musical partners. (Marla also decides to sing a song from Les Miserables which has some dangerous political sentiments guaranteed to ruffle the feathers of the nobility.)
Meanwhile, two police detectives of the newly created Magdeburg police force investigate a string of murders that have links to organized crime. There’s a professional boxer who is the most likely lead, but he isn’t talking. The boxer might also be in danger of being the next murder victim.
Like most of the later books in the Ring of Fire series, this is not a good book to start with if you’re new to the series. It also might be a good idea to skim through the Gazette and Ring of Fire anthologies to get some background on the characters that make an appearance in the book.
This is a very involved book with a lot going on. The A and B plots turn out to have a slightly predictable common link, and both plots seem to be in service of the overall religious theme of the book. (It’s basically a slightly heavy-handed parable about pride that somehow doesn’t break the plot with anvils of morality.) Despite the inclination toward sermonizing this turned out to be a very entertaining book that I enjoyed reading. I think this book did a much, much better job of including a religious theme than 1635: The Papal Stakes. The light and humorous moments are light and humorous, the serious moments don’t drag, and I really loved the summary of the opera and the character interactions.