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A death in Cold War Hungary has consequences decades later, drawing classical pianist Maggie O’Shea to Cornwall in a search for a vanished Van Gogh and the truth about her husband’s tragic death. Music and art are at the heart of this suspense series, which strikes the chords of every human emotion.


Helaine Mario recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest suspense thriller, SHADOW MUSIC:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

My books are suspenseful, yes, but on a deeper level, I hope readers will respond to my exploration of the transformative power of music and art and the choices we make and their consequences over decades. And I hope readers will find themselves asking, “What would I have done?”

Helaine Mario

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

I write the books I want to read, and I feel that my books are a blend of genres—Mystery, Suspense, WW2 History, International Settings, Romance, Humor, Art and Music—all genres that I love.

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

For me, the biggest challenge in SHADOW MUSIC was crafting a dual timeline (with several scenes set during WW2 and the Cold War—and juggling several complex plots at once so that they melded believably into a seamless whole.

Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?

YES! I realized that each of my three books in this series involves a search for something lost. Not just for a piece of art or a missing person, but on a deeper level, searching for what has been lost within ourselves.

Without spoilers, are there any genre conventions you wanted to upend or challenge with this book?

I think that my characters—flawed, complex, and layered with depth—are unusual for thriller/suspense stories but are very well-received by my readers.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

My books celebrate love, courage, and finding a way to move on after tragedy with grace and dignity. Also, I tell my stories through the lens of classical music. One of my characters, a conductor, says, “Music tells our stories.”

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

My first influences were Helen MacInnes and Mary Stewart, who inspired me with strong, smart women characters, international settings, heart-racing mysteries, swooning romance, and believable dialogue. More recently, Kate Quinn and Jojo Moyes have inspired my fascination with WW2 and dual timelines.

Is there a question that you feel is important to you and/or your novel? Write it in below, but be sure to answer it too!

Q: At age 74, why do I continue to write?

A: Because I still remember the feeling of rising early as a very young child to lose myself in Nancy Drew’s adventures. I want to give that same feeling of expectancy and ‘falling into a story’ to others.



Helaine Mario is the author of four novels of suspense, Firebird (Amazon), and the award-winning Classical Music Suspense Series, The Lost Concerto, Dark Rhapsody, and SHADOW MUSIC, coming 9/21/21 from Oceanview Publishing.

Helaine, a Boston University graduate, has been married 50+ years and lives with her husband Ron in Arlington, VA. She is grateful to be a two-time cancer survivor and is most proud of her two children and five beautiful grands.

Helaine was a White House volunteer for Al and Tipper Gore and continues to be a passionate advocate for women & children. Because she believes in “giving back,” she founded The Sun Dial Foundation in 1998, and the ‘Helaine and Ronald Mario Fund’ continues this work. Royalties from her books support reading, music, and food programs for children and families.

Music and art are at the heart of Helaine’s stories. Maggie O’Shea, the pianist in her series, was inspired by Helaine’s son, Sean, who studied piano for fifteen years. SHADOW MUSIC continues Maggie’s story.

Helaine wants to invite the reader in, create characters with depth, and paint pictures with words. To make people feel, to ask “What would I have done?” She says, “Music tells our stories.”

To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.

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