by Rosanne Parry
Reviewed by Helen Babbitt
The first sentence of Second Fiddle, by Rosanne Parry of Portland is a grabber: "If we had known it would eventually involve the KGB, the French National Police, and the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, we would have left that body in the river and called the Polizei like any normal German citizen; but we were Americans and addicted to solving other people's problems, so naturally, we got involved."
Narrator Jody chronicles her saga with gentle humor and heart. She and two girlfriends are daughters of military dads stationed in Berlin in 1990, shortly after the Wall came down. Like most adolescents, they yearn for popularity and independence. Unlike many teens, they cultivate their friendship by playing classical music together.
After learning one afternoon that their music teacher is unable to accompany them to a music competition in Paris, they witness Estonian soldier Arvo being dumped off a bridge. The trio rescues him. Arvo seems kind and understands the power of music shared with friends, stating, "I left my town and the choir seven years ago, but my friends' voices have never left me, even on my darkest day."
Sure, the story is a tad Jane Bond-ish with smuggling a soldier to Paris, sneaking into a music competition and sleeping in the Shakespeare and Company bookshop. Second Fiddle works, however, because Parry's characters are believable. They are smart and have big, sloppy American hearts. And like Bond, they wield highly effective secret weapons in their instrument cases: instruments.