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The Composer is Dead

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,380 ratings  ·  433 reviews
There's dreadful news from the symphony hall—the composer is dead!

If you have ever heard an orchestra play, then you know that musicians are most certainly guilty of something. Where exactly were the violins on the night in question? Did anyone see the harp? Is the trumpet protesting a bit too boisterously?

In this perplexing murder mystery, everyone seems to have a motive,
Hardcover, 36 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by HarperCollins - AU (first published 2009)
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4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,380 ratings  ·  433 reviews

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Lubinka Dimitrova
A wonderful, sweet book, which the music compliments very nicely. I enjoyed it very much :)
Jun 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of music and/or wit
Recommended to Kathryn by: Angie
Oh, WOW! I LOVED this book!!!! I love the entire creation--the words, the illustrations, the music. It is AMAZING! First of all, it is so very, very FUNNY! Humor is always so subjective but this just absolutely clicked with me. OMG! Witty stuff here. I love the personalities that Snicket assigns to the various instruments. For example, the "The violin section is divided inot the First Violins, who have the trickier parts to play, and the Second Violins, who are more fun at parties." The inspecto ...more
Monica Edinger
Oct 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Yesterday I played the CD of this to my fourth class and showed them the illustrations (from the F&G I got at last week's HarperCollins' spring preview). It is terrific!

When I told the kids we were going to listen to something by Lemony Snicket several announced that they'd HATED the Unfortunate Event books. But of course --- these are fall fourth graders, after all, and I suspect those that disliked the books only picked them up (as 3rd or even 2nd graders) because friends were liking them
Suad Shamma
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own, 2015
I was incredibly disappointed with this book, and I surprisingly seem to be in the minority here.

I bought this book knowing that it is targeted at children, as are most, if not all, of Lemony Snicket's books. I did not, however, realize that those children had to be between the ages of 4 and 6. This book is very small, 10 pages at most, with every page barely containing more than 2 or 3 lines. I admit, the premise of the murder mystery is extremely interesting, and the way it was executed was s
Jan 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Remember the days when kids would learn about the different instruments of the orchestra by attending mandatory orchestral performances of Peter and the Wolf? Well, go to bed, old man! Kids today don’t have time for stories of wolves and boys and lucky/unlucky duckys. Not them. No, these days to grasp a child’s attention fully it takes nothing short of murder. Cold-blooded, tastefully adapted, deeply illustrated murrrrderrrrr (roll them r’s about your tongue). A shot has been cast across the bro ...more
Luisa Knight
If Lemony Snicket was going to compose a symphony and corresponding plot, it'd be safe to expect orchestral inside jokes, the battle of the instruments, jovial sarcasm, and a little mystery and intrigue. And that's exactly what you get! This experience doesn't disappoint and will be loved by both orchestral fans and The Series of Unfortunate Events friends alike.

Ages: 6 - 11
Approx. Duration: 30 minutes

Cleanliness: mentions drinking wine and dancing.

**Like my reviews? I also have hundreds of deta
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books

The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket is a dark, clever, and hilarious piece by piece introduction to the orchestra wrapped around a mystery. Pure musical brilliance!

As the Inpsector investigates the composer’s death, readers are witness and privy to all sorts of entertaining musical lessons and history. Each instrument comes to life with sound, background, and an alibi. From the “wimpy” flutes to the “arrogant” trumpets, the voices and attitudes of the instruments will have readers learning an
Lisa Vegan
This is so cute and so funny and very creative. It reminds me of the Peter and the Wolf recording I had as a preschooler, where I learned all the instruments and began my lifelong love of the oboe. But this story is so much better. There is a hardcover edition of a picture book that takes about 30 minutes to read and view because of the included CD. The CD pretty much reads the story on the pages and has some extra words and slight deviations from the printed page. Really, I don’t recommend one ...more
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So funny and so very cleaver. That's the best thing about all of Lemony Snicket's aka Daniel Handler's books, how cleaver they are. I enjoyed everything about this book, the pictures, the humor, and the included audio recording with music!
Michelle Witte
Nov 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Musicians & music lovers
Originally posted at Libri Ago.


The moment I saw Lemony Snicket's name on the cover of The Composer Is Dead at the library the other day, I knew I had to read it. I knew it would be funny; what I wasn't expecting was this musical masterpiece.

The story is somewhat basic: a composer has been murdered, and the detective must sound out the man, er, instrument who committed the crime. The text, however, isn't what makes this book so amazing.

This isn't just a picture book, nor is it just an au
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I am excited for the day when I have the opportunity to play The Composer is Dead in my own classroom. The entire idea of staging a murder investigation in an orchestra setting was unique and delightful - exactly what I have come to expect from Lemony Snicket. As a proud former band geek, I so enjoyed the personification of the various instruments throughout the Inspector's interviews. As an alibi, the flutes claim to be "much too wimpy and high-pitched for murder!" and the tuba is a "confirmed ...more
Mar 05, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, picture-books
Opening exerpt:

"The Composer is Dead.

"Composer" is a word which here means "a person who sits in a room, muttering and humming and figuring out what notes the orchestra is going to play." This is called composing. But last night, the Composer was not muttering. He was not humming. He was not moving, or even breathing.

This is called decomposing."

Nicely illustrated by Carson Ellis. Comes with an audio CD (reading + music) too!
Tirzah Eleora
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Rereading this favourite of mine after quite a few years. Snicket is known for his dark humour and this book is no exception, but it's done in such a way that I think even those who didn't like A Series of Unfortunate Events could appreciate it. While technically written for kids, it's very intelligent and I still find it hilarious. The audio CD that accompanies the book is even better, and I've just discovered that the whole thing is on YouTube, so check it out!
Harold Ogle
This was tremendously entertaining, with some added amusement that was unintended by the author. The book involves the investigation of an orchestra by a detective who is trying to discover why "the composer is dead." It contains a lot of funny digs at different orchestral stereotypes, including a number of veiled inside jokes and puns, as the detective interviews each section of the orchestra as suspects in the murder case. What makes it really shine, though, is that it is also an audiobook: ea ...more
Jun 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ann by: Angie! Thanks!
What a fun book! This is a great introduction to musical instruments and their positions within an orchestra. The plot is that a composer has died, so the detective interrogates various instruments, from the violins to the cellos, to the drums and the horns. It’s quite amusing to read the personality descriptions that Snicket has been assigned to the instruments. The end is quite amusing (though the word-play and irony may be lost on some young children). I’m afraid I did not listen to the accom ...more
Mar 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
It's like "Peter and The Wolf" except, Lemony Snicket. (I was going to say "better", but I realized that I actually like Peter and The Wolf".)

It's very clever, and the lady who illustrated the liner notes for most of The Decemberists albums illustrated this.
oh, god, how i love lemony snicket.
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was so good and funny! "Shubert... unfinished, but dead" was the best line. The Stookey orchestration is also great, please listen to it.
Jorge Rosas
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this book, it’s perfect for an introduction to the orchestra world, in the middle of an assassination the detective tries to find out what happened y interrogating the different types of instruments. This one is a mixture of an audio and normal books, you can only use the CD but you’ll be missing the illustrations, you could read the book alone but it’ll be lame, but when you combine them it’s a wonderful thing, a little bit too long for the instrument parts but still quite enjoyable.
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well, this is the perfect book to introduce children to the musical world. It tells you all about the different instruments that compose an orchestra, and since it has a CD, you can also hear them out, one by one, and then as a whole ensemble. It's really good, although for me as an adult it was rather slow. I have a lot of problems following audio books because I'm easily distracted, so it didn't really help me. But I see how great this can be for younger kids. And the story is fantastic! Lemon ...more
Danielle {halfdesertedstreets}
As a rule, I don't include picture books in my yearly tally unless they're for The Newbery Project or teaching, but I'm making an exception here because this was SO MUCH FUN. It had me grinning the whole time.
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
Fun story for children (and adults) who want to know something about orchestras, delivered in an interesting way.
Julie Rowse
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
This is right up there with A Young Lutheran's Guide to the Orchestra and Peter and the Wolf, as an introduction to orchestras. I laughed out loud on nearly every page. So fun.
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Broke out the CD player for this one. I thought it was mostly clever. But it was confusing (at the end) to my daughter, who is 11, despite her love of everything Lemony Snicket. My favorite part is when the narrator calls out the names of dead composers. The CD did make it fun... and suspenseful.
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, funny personification of different orchestral instruments. I was cracking up.
Sara Grace
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wish there was a little more detail on individual instruments - but I guess as a bassoonist I should be happy it's at least mentioned - and pictured! I would love to purchase a few copies of this book for myself and family!
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-books
Life update - basically my children are just going to read Snicket books for their childhood
Heather Bolwar
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Yes! A thousand times, yes! Such a clever book to teach kids about the orchestra, yet adults who have had experience in orchestras will catch the little inside jokes. The theme music played each time Lemony Snicket says "the composer is dead" is so delightfully dreadful that I wish it could be a soundtrack that plays every time my classroom door swings open. This is the only Lemony Snicket book I've experienced thus far, but I'm so impressed with it I feel I must get my hands on more.
Oct 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everybody
Snicket, Lemony. 2009. The Composer Is Dead. Illustrations by Carson Ellis. Music by Nathaniel Stookey. (The book comes with a CD lasting just almost 58 minutes. The story itself comprises about thirty minutes of the CD.)

From the publisher:

The Composer Is Dead is a collaborative effort by the San Francisco Symphony, Stookey and Mr. Snicket, also allegedly known as Daniel Handler. The goal of The Composer Is Dead commission, book, and CD is to build upon the wild popularity of Mr. Snicket’s inven
Mar 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: children, musicians and music lovers
The first time I ever heard of Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead, was before this book was ever published. Mr. Snicket and his dear old friend, and composer, Nathaniel Stookey, had been commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony to create a theatrical orchestral piece to encourage youth to become more involved with classical music. A sort of Peter and the Wolf for modern children.

This piece landed at the LA Phil ( and I promptly took my budding cellist of a daughter to see it.
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The Most Awesome ...: The Composer is Dead 1 5 Jan 22, 2013 11:27PM  
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Lemony Snicket had an unusual education and a perplexing youth and now endures a despondent adulthood. His previous published works include the thirteen volumes in A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Composer is Dead, and 13 Words. His new series is All The Wrong Questions.

For A Series of Unfortunate Events:

For All The Wrong Questions:
“Composer” is a word which here means “a person who sits in a room, muttering and humming and figuring out what notes the orchestra is going to play.” This is called composing. But last night, the Composer was not muttering. He was not humming. He was not moving, or even breathing.
This is called decomposing.”
“The Violins waltzed. The Cellos and Basses provided accompaniment. The Violas mourned their fate, while the Concertmaster showed off. The Flutes did bird imitations…repeatedly, and the reed instruments had the good taste to admire my jacket. The Trumpets held a parade in honor of our great nation, while the French Horns waxed nostalgic about something or other. The Trombones had too much to drink. The Percussion beat the band, and the Tuba stayed home playing cards with his landlady, the Harp, taking sips of warm milk a blue little cup.
“But the Composer is still dead.”
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