Dolly and the Singing Bird (Johnson Johnson, #1)
Tina Rossi, an opera singer discovers her lover, a top research scientist, dead at their secret meeting place and Johnson Johnson, an artist and amateur detective, helps her unravel the mystery.Also known as Rum Affair/ Photogenic Soprano.

Dolly and the Singing Bird (Johnson Johnson, #1) Details

TitleDolly and the Singing Bird (Johnson Johnson, #1)
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseAug 12th, 1982
PublisherVintage
ISBN-139780394711621
Rating
GenreMystery, Crime, Fiction, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Cultural, Scotland

Dolly and the Singing Bird (Johnson Johnson, #1) Review

  • Algernon (Darth Anyan)
    January 1, 1970
    [7/10] extra star for being written by one of my favorite authorsBefore becoming a writer, Dorothy Dunnett was a voracious reader. According to her biography, when she complained to her husband that she has run out of reading material, he asked her why she doesn’t write her own stories. The result of the challenge is one of my all time favorite historical adventures: the epic “Lymond Chronicles”, followed by equally impressive “House of Niccolo” novels. The Dolly mystery novels are lightweight, [7/10] extra star for being written by one of my favorite authorsBefore becoming a writer, Dorothy Dunnett was a voracious reader. According to her biography, when she complained to her husband that she has run out of reading material, he asked her why she doesn’t write her own stories. The result of the challenge is one of my all time favorite historical adventures: the epic “Lymond Chronicles”, followed by equally impressive “House of Niccolo” novels. The Dolly mystery novels are lightweight, summer reads compared to her erudite, monumental historical doorstoppers. But they shine with the same intelligent, mischievious, subversive approach to storytelling. I can imagine the author chuckling over the typewriter, as she sets out not to imitate but to play with the rules of the sleuthing game as set out by the likes of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers.Like his more famous counterparts, Sherlock Holmes and Lord Peter Whimsey, our detective is an intriguing individual with a passion for solving mysteries and a rich repertoire of affectations and idiosyncrasies. His name is Johnson Johnson, he is a renowned portrait painter and a passionate sailor on his private yacht “Dolly”. His visage is rather non-descript, dominated and defined by his bifocal glasses, and he is thrifty in providing personal information: I like Bach, whisky, striped underpants, Montego Bay, shooting and Peruvian brandy. Also beautiful ladies of character. This is my first novel in the series and, from the brief research I have made, it appears that each episode is a stand-alone adventure, told from the perspective of a ‘lady of character’, set aboard the yacht “Dolly” in an exotic location close to the sea. In the first installment the narrator is Tina Rossi, a world famous coloratura soprano, and the setting is Scotland, starting in Edinburgh with a recital at the Festival, and moving later to the islands on the West coast, in particular one called Rum. So there’s where the new title comes from, although I was confused in the beginning, considering a Whisky Affair more appropriate for the Hebrides. I actually like the original title better: “Dolly and the Singing Bird”, with Tina Rossi in the role of the singing lady.Tina is a lively, resourceful and sharp-tongued protagonist, alternating her behaviour from a damzel in distress to a sophisticated jet-set primadona, with an underlaying layer of pragmatism and ambition. She’s at the top of her career, but she never forgets her modest start in a foster home. Her troubles begin in Edinburgh, when she escapes from her luxurious hotel on a romantic assignation, where instead of meeting her lover in their love nest, she finds a dead body in a cupboard. Johnson Johnson intervenes to help her out of this tricky situation, and then offers to take her on his boat to the remote island where this man, a respected scientist named Kenneth Holmes, is either missing or in deep trouble with the authorities. Expect complications and a lot of surprising twists.The way Dunnett balances sophisticated comedy with mystery and with several edge-of-the-seat set pieces, in particular an Atlantic storm in a disabled small boat, reminds me pleasantly of the talent displayed in her historical pieces, while keeping the overall tone lighter and avoiding the eclectic, encyclopaedic references that tend to slow down said novels.I would recommend the book as a good vacation choice, especially for readers who have a passing interest in sailing, in Scotland whisky distilleries, in grand opera and in British-flavoured whodunits. They may not be representative of the author’s exquisite talent for historical fiction, but they are a good example of writing for fun and profit.Note: I have another example of an author who got high praise for sprawling historical epics, yet managed to publish a series of crime mysteries with female leads and a humorous tone: M M Kaye is well known for her Indian adentures, “The Far Pavillions” and “Shadow of the Moon”, yet her murder novels are sadly out of print. I wish some publisher will pick them up for electronic publishing and make it easier for the fans to track them down and buy them.
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  • Cphe
    January 1, 1970
    Not quite on par with the very excellent historical Lymond and Niccolo series but still an enjoyable mystery. Loved the setting and the period. The mystery component was well done. There was a twist towards the end that I didn't see coming.Most of the action takes place during a boating race near Scotland. Have to agree with another reviewer on Amazon, there was a lot of attention given to the attire of the main characters.I'm biased, but anything written by one of my very favourite authors is w Not quite on par with the very excellent historical Lymond and Niccolo series but still an enjoyable mystery. Loved the setting and the period. The mystery component was well done. There was a twist towards the end that I didn't see coming.Most of the action takes place during a boating race near Scotland. Have to agree with another reviewer on Amazon, there was a lot of attention given to the attire of the main characters.I'm biased, but anything written by one of my very favourite authors is well worth the read.
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  • Brittany
    January 1, 1970
    Dorothy Dunnett is an astonishingly flexible author. I had read Dolly and the Bird of Paradise because it was the only of the Dolly mysteries my library seemed able to lay its hands on. However, in February 2012, all of the books became available as Kindle books. Happily, they've all been renamed. (Rum Affair was originally titled Dolly and the Singing Bird. I never really liked the Dolly titles. It makes them sound childish, which they very much aren't. Also, you know, we don't really refer to Dorothy Dunnett is an astonishingly flexible author. I had read Dolly and the Bird of Paradise because it was the only of the Dolly mysteries my library seemed able to lay its hands on. However, in February 2012, all of the books became available as Kindle books. Happily, they've all been renamed. (Rum Affair was originally titled Dolly and the Singing Bird. I never really liked the Dolly titles. It makes them sound childish, which they very much aren't. Also, you know, we don't really refer to women as "birds" anymore, but that's neither here nor there.)Each of the Dolly mysteries is narrated by a different woman. Each possesses her own very distinct worldview and a breathtakingly distinct voice. I honestly don't know how Dunnett does it. The Lymond and Niccolo books both had a very similar erudite, witty tone. The Dolly novels are completely different. These mysteries are extremely intelligent psychological mysteries that are also heavy on geographic escapism. Each is in a different exotic locale that the reader (by the end of the book, if not right at the beginning) would very much like to visit.The protagonist (and narrator) of Rum Affair is Tina Rossi, a worldly-wise opera singer. She is self-absorbed, sophisticated, and very dryly funny. The "Rum" in this title refers, not to the alcohol but to one of the islands in the Scottish Hebrides, spelled "Rhum" for much of its history. The mystery involves international espionage, mines, bodies tumbling out of closets at unexpected moments, a visit to Fingal's cave, and of course, the mysteries' tie: portrait painter Johnson Johnson and his ship the Dolly. Dunnett is an amazingly skillful author who takes the idea of an unreliable narrator to heard. These books are wonderfully satisfying adventure romps in beautiful locales.I highly recommend these books.
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  • Andrea
    January 1, 1970
    Part mystery, part spy story, but primarily a character study of a famous female singer. Her practiced coping with the men who want to use her, sleep with her, or impede her is one of the more interesting aspects of this book. I also found interesting her detailed description of her (endless) array of outfits, because that is very much a part of a woman who is famous and to whom appearance is a primary factor.The story is a tad overlong, and could particularly have done without most of the final Part mystery, part spy story, but primarily a character study of a famous female singer. Her practiced coping with the men who want to use her, sleep with her, or impede her is one of the more interesting aspects of this book. I also found interesting her detailed description of her (endless) array of outfits, because that is very much a part of a woman who is famous and to whom appearance is a primary factor.The story is a tad overlong, and could particularly have done without most of the final 20%, and the last twist kind of left me blah, but I'm curious to see how different the next book will be, so I'll probably try one or two more of these.
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  • Joy
    January 1, 1970
    Exalted opera singer Tina Rossi has a hidden romance. When she goes for a secret meeting with Kenneth, she finds a dead body instead of her lover. Yachting artist Johnson Johnson steps in to help her reach him, along the route of a world famous yacht race. Kenneth, a leading scientist, is sequestered somewhere along the race route, suspected of sabotage. Nothing is going to stop Tina from reaching him.An interesting group of characters in a complex and uncertain web of interactions. Expect surpr Exalted opera singer Tina Rossi has a hidden romance. When she goes for a secret meeting with Kenneth, she finds a dead body instead of her lover. Yachting artist Johnson Johnson steps in to help her reach him, along the route of a world famous yacht race. Kenneth, a leading scientist, is sequestered somewhere along the race route, suspected of sabotage. Nothing is going to stop Tina from reaching him.An interesting group of characters in a complex and uncertain web of interactions. Expect surprises, over and over.
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  • Abbey
    January 1, 1970
    BOTTOM LINE: #1 Johnson Johnson, bon vivant, artist, sailor, coastal islands of Scotland; cosy suspense/thriller. Valentina Rossi has it all - at the top of her career as a classical singer, she is young, beautiful and wealthy. She also has secrets, including her love affair with an esteemed - and closely guarded - scientist. When her attempts to see him again result in murder and blackmail she sets her determined mind and resources to clearing up the obstacles in her path, sometimes aided and s BOTTOM LINE: #1 Johnson Johnson, bon vivant, artist, sailor, coastal islands of Scotland; cosy suspense/thriller. Valentina Rossi has it all - at the top of her career as a classical singer, she is young, beautiful and wealthy. She also has secrets, including her love affair with an esteemed - and closely guarded - scientist. When her attempts to see him again result in murder and blackmail she sets her determined mind and resources to clearing up the obstacles in her path, sometimes aided and sometimes thwarted by the ubiquitous Mr. Johnson, as she ostensibly sails in a race aboard his yacht, all the while keeping her own counsel. Tremendously complex, very well-done first mystery under another name by a famous author of historicals, this is a satisfying - and witty - read, with good set-up, excellent pacing and build-up, and at least two enormously strong twists that leave the reader agreeably off-balance. Tina is an extremely likable narrator, and the ending is quite a stunner - wonderful stuff.Superb example of the “unreliable narrator” technique, smoothly done, with just enough information given in a gently misleading manner, to string us along to the smashing denouement. Nothing, and no-one, is what they seem, not even Our Hero. Note: THE PHOTOGENIC SOPRANO was originally published under the name of “Dorothy Halliday” under the title of DOLLY AND THE SINGING BIRD; novel was also published under the title of RUM AFFAIR
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  • Elizabetta
    January 1, 1970
    I discovered the Dolly books when I was living in Europe and looking for something to read at the American Embassy in Geneva. Little did I know that I would be swept away by Dunnett's quirky, hilarious hero Johnson Johnson, wealthy social gadfly and undercover mystery solver extraordinaire. Dolly is his yacht...he travels from port to port meeting fabulous people and helping them out of sticky situations. I had to rush back to the Embassy to buy ALL the books they had in this series. The humor i I discovered the Dolly books when I was living in Europe and looking for something to read at the American Embassy in Geneva. Little did I know that I would be swept away by Dunnett's quirky, hilarious hero Johnson Johnson, wealthy social gadfly and undercover mystery solver extraordinaire. Dolly is his yacht...he travels from port to port meeting fabulous people and helping them out of sticky situations. I had to rush back to the Embassy to buy ALL the books they had in this series. The humor is very British so it took some getting used to but I love how unique her voice is. I don't think I ever figured out just who Johnson Johnson really is but I'd sure want him on my side.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    I wasn't sure what to expect as I'd never read any of Dorothy Dunnett's books. It is a well written mystery, with several interesting twists. It's presented from the perspective of one of the main characters, but not necessarily from the one you'd expect. The terminology is both nautical, and European. (Ms. Dunnett was based in Scotland) A dictionary on hand might be helpful, but not necessary to continue with the flow of the story. The descriptions of the scenery, clothes, and jewels are beauti I wasn't sure what to expect as I'd never read any of Dorothy Dunnett's books. It is a well written mystery, with several interesting twists. It's presented from the perspective of one of the main characters, but not necessarily from the one you'd expect. The terminology is both nautical, and European. (Ms. Dunnett was based in Scotland) A dictionary on hand might be helpful, but not necessary to continue with the flow of the story. The descriptions of the scenery, clothes, and jewels are beautiful. I enjoyed it, even though I didn't really connect with any of the characters.
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  • Mackay
    January 1, 1970
    The catorization of this as modern novel or mystery is only approximate. Dunnett's "mysteries" defy labels. This is a psychological tale about the intersection of spies and ordinary life, told by a rather self-involved, thus unreliable narrator. It's fun; it's not great, even if it is the first of her Johnson Johnson (or "Dolly") books, and even if she's one of my all-time favs.
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  • Anne
    January 1, 1970
    I perfectly adequate mystery, but a little disappointing after her historical novels which I recommend every chance I get. I think it would have been more exciting if I read it during the cold war and understood all the references.My real disappointment is that Dorothy dunnett is deceased, and so will not be publishing any more books.
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  • Kathy Davie
    January 1, 1970
    Twists and turns with a very unexpected hero. Reminds me of Dorothy Sayers' Peter Wimsey.
  • Catherine
    January 1, 1970
    The 2nd mystery in the Johnson Johnson series was a twisty, constantly surprising, action-packed novel which had a bitter-sweet ending which totally caught me unawares.
  • Millicent
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent plot, but a lot of sailing jargon makes this a difficult story to follow unless the reader has a good sense of how a sailboat works.
  • MB (What she read)
    January 1, 1970
    Aka Dolly and the Singing Bird.(view spoiler)[Not a favorite due to the depressing ending, but still good. (hide spoiler)]
  • Ashley Lambert-Maberly
    January 1, 1970
    Ouch. I'd really been looking forward to this one, as I trawl through mysteries past (I recently re-read Murderess Ink, delighted that since the invention of the Internet I could finally get my hands on the many referenced works). It began well--the title soprano was likable, the surprising Mr. Johnson equally so, and so the beginning pleased. And then--dear God--she joined Mr. Johnson on some kind of sailing race. If the book were called The Interminable Nautical Descriptions I would have known Ouch. I'd really been looking forward to this one, as I trawl through mysteries past (I recently re-read Murderess Ink, delighted that since the invention of the Internet I could finally get my hands on the many referenced works). It began well--the title soprano was likable, the surprising Mr. Johnson equally so, and so the beginning pleased. And then--dear God--she joined Mr. Johnson on some kind of sailing race. If the book were called The Interminable Nautical Descriptions I would have known to steer clear of it. But instead I had to suffer through pages and pages of prose describing the bits of the boat, and the water, and the view, and the relationship of them all to each other (do I need to read a precise description of docking? Can't I just trust they know how to do it, did it, and we can move past it? No, apparently). Instead we get treasures like: "I stood staring by the bare pole of the mainmast while Johnson dropped anchor beside a whorl of stacked peats made of pumice-stone, and I plodded down the companionway as soon as the dinghy was loaded." Or "I was between the brass handrail which ran along the side of the coachhouse roof and the ridge of the gunwale. I was against the lee rail of a hard-sailing ship, and if I released my grip of this icy brass rail I should be hard put to it not to slip sideways between those wide manropes and thence into the sea."Almost all the characters are nautical people, so the entire plot (after the initial excitement) consists of visiting one another in port and discussing the race.My fault, I suppose, for expecting a whodunnit--but the question of responsibility for the initial corpse is dealt with mid-way through without any particular excitement. At the 3/4 mark another murder is committed, and we finally have something resembling a murder mystery, with actual suspects and a couple of clues, but the perpetrator is fingered in about 20 pages, so so much for that.An interesting twist figures in the final chapter, but having been bored still for about 180 pages in the middle, it's not enough to redeem me. Kudos for creating some characters compelling enough to have me keep hoping against hope that the book would take a turn for the better, instead of ditching it 52 pages in (my current rule--read at least your age, then discard if you're still not enjoying it).It's really just a not-very-engaging pseudo-thriller for people who love reading about other people racing boats.(Note: 5 stars = amazing, wonderful, 4 = very good book, 3 = decent read, 2 = disappointing, 1 = awful, just awful. I'm fairly good at picking for myself so end up with a lot of 4s).
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  • Laurie
    January 1, 1970
    Much as I am a big fan of Dunnett's historical novels, all of which I have read, I didn't like this mystery story. It was replete with her elegant language but the narrator was easily suspicious and the plot simply silly and confusing.
  • Jeri
    January 1, 1970
    I didn't know Dorothy Dunnett wrote mystery books! Seems far from her usual genre. As a former sailor, I loved the feel of sailing on the briny deep. She certainly has the jargon down pat.
  • Sandra
    January 1, 1970
    This one is actually first in the Johnson & Johnson series of mysteries that Dunnett wrote. They've recently been released on Kindle by the Dunnett Society. I read another one first and enjoyed it a lot more. This one had a protagonist that I didn't like, but was as rich and convoluted as one would expect a Dunnett book to be. Enjoyable, but not a top rated one for me.
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  • Marlene
    January 1, 1970
    I would undoubtedly have enjoyed it more if I had the slightest interest in sailing. I don't, nor am I much of a fan of espionage novels or gather-everyone-in-the-drawing-room-to-unmask-the-murderer mysteries, so I found it only mildly entertaining. Rather than read any further in this series, I think I'll just re-read Dorothy Dunnett's outstanding historical novels.
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  • Mackay
    January 1, 1970
    Mystery, thrills, sailing. A fun lightweight book.
  • Helen
    January 1, 1970
    More Eric Ambler like than the others, I think
  • Carolyn
    January 1, 1970
    I remember thinking this was "fine" but nothing else really.I greatly prefer her Niccolo/Lymond books and King Hereafter which remains one of my very all-time favorite books.
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