It is a fact that Mozart believed himself to have been poisoned. Whether he was poisoned or not, is not known, but Matt Rees takes this for the starting point of his excellent, and exciting, new novel. Already a successful author, with his popular Omar Yussef series, the first of which is The Bethlehem Murders: A Novel (Omar Yussef Mystery Series)
, this book takes him in a change of direction. Not contemporary, but historical crime, and with the added difficulty of bringing to life real characters. He pulls it off with perfection.
It is 1791 and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is living in Vienna, estranged from his sister Nannerl. Once a successful child prodigy, Nannerl has seen her life and success shrink with her fathers death and marriage to a man who needed someone to oversee his troublesome children. When she receives a letter from Mozart's wife, Constanze, to say he is dead and that he told her, "I'm sure I've been poisoned", her former life comes crashing back to her. When Constanze further suggests that rumours abound a jealous husband killed him, she decides to go to Vienna and find out for herself. Her husband expresses amazement, "surely he was dead to you already?", but although her father caused trouble between them with his will and she felt jealous of his escape and success, her love for him has never died.
Arriving in Vienna, Nannerl finds Mozart's former friends and colleagues suspicious, nervous and unwilling to speak to her about what happened. Yet, Nannerl is obviously not the completely downtroddon provincial she feels she has become. She is a woman who played in palaces and for royalty, and she is at home with that kind of life and not over awed. Did Mozart's links to the Masons threaten anyone? For the Emperor of Austria's sister, Marie Antoinette, is held under arrest and revolution is sweeping France. Europe is nervous of conspiracy and Nannerl finds conspiracy rife in Vienna.
Matt Rees brings both Austria and the people concerned back to life wonderfully in this novel. You can feel the cold, the fog, the fear and, also, the presence of Mozart throughout the book and how he affected everyone he came into contact with through his music. Nannerl is a great heroine, and you will her to make her peace with the brother she lost contact with. Excellent novel - I have enjoyed Matt Rees books for a long time and I look forward to seeing the new directions this talented author will go in the future. Highly recommended.