Mozart's Last Aria

by Matt Rees
Harper, November 2011, $14.99


A resounding bravo to Matt Rees, author of the beautifully written and diligently researched Mozart's Last Aria. Set in Vienna, Austria, in 1791, this mystery captures both the mood and mores of the time. It begins when Mozart's estranged older sister, Maria Anna Berchtold von Sonnenberg, known as Nanneri, receives a letter from Wolfgang's widow informing her that he has died. Even more upsetting, the letter reveals that her brother, whose opera "The Magic Flute" has just opened to rave reviews, insisted on his deathbed that he was being slowly poisoned.

Nanneri refuses to bow to her overbearing husband's wishes not to leave her staid mountain village near Salzburg and sets out for Vienna to determine how and why her brother died. She must sort through a conspiracy of rivals, creditors, lovers, and Masonic brethren, all of whom, she learns, collided with the more liberal Mozart—even the royal family emerges as a key in the plot. Nanneri also finds love in Vienna, and her relationship with the Austrian secret policeman is a vast departure from her arranged marriage to an unimaginative husband.

Rees makes the musical realm of Mozart sparkle with intrigue as Nanneri, herself an accomplished pianist, engages in a grand finale set to the music of "Don Giovanni," another Mozart classic, and unravels the plot against her brother's life. Readers may already be familiar with Rees writing as Matt Beynon Rees, author of the award-winning Omar Yussef Palestinian mystery series. A former Middle East correspondent for Time, he resides in Jerusalem.

Sue Emmons
Teri Duerr

by Matt Rees
Harper, November 2011, $14.99

November 2011