Sonata in Wax: A Novel

Available April 2024 from Green City Books

“Edward Hamlin’s Sonata in Wax features what I love best in a novel—theft, lies, betrayal, music, and a time-defying mystery—all written in Hamlin’s lyrical and captivating style. A gorgeous book, and not to be missed.”

— Erika Krouse
Tell Me Everything: The Story of a Private Investigation

A Musical Mystery—and the Story of a Lie

As the Great War rages, a French pianist sits down to play a breathtakingly original sonata—a piece so strange and inspired that it could change the course of classical music. The moment is captured on wax cylinders, the recording medium of the day. But in the tumult of war the fragile cylinders vanish, and with them the identities of the brilliant composer and the virtuoso pianist.

A century later, five timeworn wax cylinders land on the desk of Ben Weil, a revered classical music producer. From the moment he first plays them in his Chicago studio, Ben knows he’s in the presence of genius. The dazzling piece is fifty years ahead of its time, more Coltrane than Debussy—how could it be?

Brought low by a painful divorce, Ben throws himself into unlocking the sonata’s mysteries. But when the renowned pianist Ana Clara Matta stumbles upon the work and takes credit for unearthing it, he’s swept into a lie that could shatter his reputation and his private life at a stroke. Somehow Ben must find a way to tell the truth—a dangerous quest that will lead him not only to the sonata’s surprising origins, but to his own.

In Search of Forgotten Genius, in Life as in Fiction

As Ben Weil slowly unwinds the mystery of the French sonata, his path leads through the work of the turn-of-the-century composer Lili Boulanger, whose career was tragically cut short by illness. One of Lili’s brief fragments for piano gives Ben a vital clue to the origins of the sonata in wax.

Now, a century after Lili’s death at the age of twenty-four, concert pianist Natalia Kazaryan is working to bring Lili Boulanger’s work—and the work of other neglected woman composers—the recognition it deserves. Here’s Natalia’s moving performance of the Trois morceaux, the first of which is the fragment that captures Ben Weil’s imagination.

Learn more about Natalia Kazaryan’s work here.

Bulgarian pianist Émile Naoumoff—the final student of esteemed composition teacher Nadia Boulanger, Lili’s sister—recorded his own brilliant interpretation of the piece for a memorial album dedicated to the Boulanger sisters.

Learn more about Émile Naoumoff’s work here: