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Murder in the Pit
cover art Ardy M. Scott.



Julia Kogan, a brilliant young violinist, teams up with opera-loving cop Larry Somers to solve the high profile murder of a famous opera conductor. In the process, Julia and Larry discover an opera house rife with a web of secrets, intrigue, lethal rivalries and danger.


Book Excerpt



Murder in the Pit

literary suspense

Erica Miner



Chapter One


Julia threaded her way through the waiting crowds of patrons in front of the Metropolitan Opera House and headed toward the revolving door. Off to the side, she heard a downtrodden street violinist give a passionate rendition of the fiendish showpiece, Zigeunerweisen. Despite his brilliant playing, he was ignored by the throng. Julia stopped to listen to him. She smiled at the man in sympathy and placed a twenty-dollar bill into his violin case.

"You sound great. Keep plugging away."

"Thank you, Miss."

He cast a grateful acknowledgement in her direction and carried on with his impassioned performance. She smiled at him and sent a thankful look heavenward.

Julia had decided to enter the opera house through the front doors on Lincoln Center Plaza. Her usual habit was to go in through the stage entrance, via the alley off Amsterdam Avenue, toward the rear of the theater. Instead, she chose the revolving glass doors off Broadway, which afforded a much more elegant entrance. This evening, Julia was seized by the desire to be among the glitterati of the opening night gala. It was her first performance as a violinist with the Met Orchestra. All her instincts told her things would never be the same again.

No stage door tonight. I go in with the paying customers.

In front of the Met's massive glass doors, a pair of elegant life-sized, glass-enclosed posters heralded the evening's performance: "Metropolitan Opera, Gala opening night performance: Verdi's Don Carlo, Abel Trudeau, Conductor - Sold Out."

Julia gently squeezed past an older woman, looking chic in a fox stole and diamond necklace, and a younger woman clad in a simple but stylish Diane von Furstenberg frock, and inhaled their heady perfume. From her position in front of the giant glass windows that revealed activity inside the Met lobby, she watched the distinguished crowd sweeping through the doors and up the circular Italian marble staircases, past the red velvet-flocked walls and underneath the lead-crystal chandeliers that had been a gift from the Austrian government.

Julia had overcome every possible obstacle to be there among the crème de la crème of New York musicians. But she owed her career to Abel Trudeau.

Abel was the mentor who had nurtured Julia's musical gifts for the past dozen years. Because of his unwavering attention, Julia had developed a single-minded confidence in her ability to perform under pressure in auditions and performances. This gave her an edge, enabling her to outshine her fellow students under duress. Most of them resented her talent, not to mention her beauty. Petite and slender, with a cascade of chestnut brown hair and eyes to match, she inspired jealous glances wherever she went. But Julia decided early on that making Abel proud far outranked the social acceptance of her peers.

Her mind wandered back to the fateful day when Maestro Trudeau had pronounced her "ready" for the Met. A dazzling display of violin mastery in the Juilliard School's production of Britten's opera The Rape of Lucretia had brought Julia's achievements to his attention. He didn't hesitate to tell her so afterwards, and when he placed Julia on the list of auditionees for the opening in the Met's first violin section, she was astonished. He then proceeded to coach her on her audition repertoire, most of which she could perform with ease. But the fiendish passage from Verdi's Luisa Miller Overture was still eluding her, or so she thought.

"I'll never get it right."

"No. As far as I'm concerned, you've got it right. You're ready for the Met."

"You really think so? Well, if I am, it's only because of you."

"No, it's not. It's because you have the gift of an artist's soul."

The gift of an artist's soul.

His words inspired her. She was so overjoyed at Abel's praise she wanted to hug him. She didn't, of course. She couldn't. Not since her father. But Abel, who had always looked after her, remained closer to her than anyone else. Julia thought since Abel had no wife or family perhaps he considered her his daughter substitute. It was a role she was happy to play. Not even her perennial sadness at the loss of her father could keep her from focusing on her goal: to please Abel and to be a part of his prestigious orchestra.

Abel had looked at her glowing face and flashed her a wise smile. "Remember, never let anyone undermine your confidence in your abilities. And always think beyond the notes. You will be true to the music, and to yourself."

Julia made a pledge to herself to follow his counsel to the letter. She wasn't sure what he meant by thinking "beyond the notes." He had taught her about how letter designations of certain notes changed from language to language, such as the note letter "B natural" in English, which was the equivalent of "H" in German. But she was sure his present wisdom about notes referred to something else, something subtler.

Maybe I'll understand better when I'm older and more sophisticated.

Nonetheless she always kept his advice close to her heart, touched to the core that Abel had considered her worthy of sharing such precious information.

Julia had, as he predicted, been ready. She blew away her competition at the grueling round of auditions and won the unanimous praise of the judges. At age twenty-two, she became the youngest member of the Met's orchestra "family."

I'll be in his debt forever. There's nothing I wouldn't do for him...

In the six months following her successful bid for a position in the orchestra's first violin section, Julia rapidly adjusted to the Met. The demanding pre-opening night rehearsal schedule was her first test: five days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m., with limited breaks. Music for as many as five new operas was thrown at the musicians at a frenetic pace, and the new players were constantly being scrutinized by the more established musicians as well as the conductor. Once these rehearsed operas came into the performance repertoire, new operas were brought in to rehearse in their place during the day in tandem with evening performances. In the case of new productions, or those featuring famous conductors or opera stars with the most clout, the musicians often were called upon to rehearse after hours, although this practice was often reined in by the management to keep overtime costs under control.

In spite of this punishing agenda, Julia kept a good deal of her original ingenuousness, staying upbeat and positive about her adored new job. She loved all the operas, even the five- or six-hour Wagner ones. When other violinists sat down in their chairs groaning at the rich meal before them on the music stand, Julia consumed every note of each page with an insatiable appetite.

Tonight Julia hoisted the strap that held her violin case to her other shoulder, trembling with anticipation. The evening ahead was going to be a long one, but full of excitement. She allowed herself a moment to admire the magnificent Chagall murals, the immense, towering artworks that distinguished the Metropolitan Opera House from all others, renowned as the signature of the Met's façade. Their brilliant colors displayed the French-Russian painter's genius to the world, especially the world of New York's Lincoln Center, much as the Eiffel Tower represented the genius of late nineteenth-century French engineering. The paintings stood as a monument to music, inspiring admiration and awe.

A sudden longing for her father replaced her anticipation with intense pain. A tear escaped her eye and clung to her cheek, glistening in the bright lights of Lincoln Plaza, as she gazed into the cascading jets of its famed fountain.

Why couldn't Dad be here to see me fulfill my dream? It just isn't fair.







Author Bio

Violinist turned author Erica Miner has had a multi-faceted career as an award-winning screenwriter, author, lecturer and poet. A native of Detroit, she studied music at Boston University, the New England Conservatory of Music, and the Tanglewood Music Center. After experiencing a variety of highs and lows in her quest to forge a career in New York City, Erica won the coveted position of violinist with the Metropolitan Opera Company, a high-pressured milieu but the pinnacle of her field.

Her life became even more challenging, however, when injuries from a car accident spelled the end of her musical career. Searching for a new creative outlet, she drew upon her lifelong love of writing for inspiration and studied poetry and screenwriting, winning a number of awards in both categories. After moving to the west coast, Erica honed her screenwriting skills with author and script guru Linda Seger of Making a Good Script Great fame and with Ken Rotcop, the author of Perfect Pitch. Erica's ten screenplays, one of which is based on her award-winning debut novel, Travels with My Lovers, have won awards and/or placed in such competitions as WinFemme, Santa Fe and the Writer's Digest. Her essays and articles have appeared in Vision Magazine, WORD San Diego and numerous newsletters and E-zines.

Erica has completed both the novel and screenplay of her suspense thriller, Murder In The Pit, which takes place at the Met, and currently is at work on the second novel in her "FourEver Friends" series chronicling four young girls' coming of age in the volatile 60s and 70s.

In addition Erica has developed a number of writing lectures and seminars on writing, which she has presented at various venues across the West Coast and on the High Seas. Topics range from "The Art of Self Re-Invention" to "Opera Meets Hollywood" and "Journaling for Writers: Mining the Gold of Your Own Experiences." Details about Erica's novels, screenplays, seminars and interviews can be found on her website,

TTB title: Death by Opera
Murder in the Pit

Author web site.




Murder in the Pit Copyright © 2010. Erica Miner. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.



  Author News



".... Murder in the Pit is an adventure of the imagination, a play within a play. ...[Miner] has recreated in a fascinating operatic world a tangle of plot twists whose intricacies ultimately unravel to reveal the prose of an author who is sure of her skills."
Valerio Massimo Manfredi, author of The Ancient Curse (Macmillan Publishers Ltd., July 2010), The Ides of March and The Lost Army.

"...As a lover of classical music and a patron of Tanglewood when I was younger, I was extremely happy with all the in-depth knowledge that Ms. Miner has delivered. She was actually a violinist at the Met, so she certainly knows the world of which she speaks. Because of this background, as well as quick-witted writing, Ms. Miner has put together a very solid mystery with a cast of characters who were an absolute joy to read."
Reviewed by Amy Lignor for  




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