Rees’ latest marks a distinct departure from the Omar Yussef detective series as it combines mystery and historical intrigue with a timeless love story.
Thousands of words have been written about the late-18th-century musical genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a child prodigy who, with his sister, toured much of Europe. Maria Anna, known to her family as Nannerl, was five years older than her brother, who died in Vienna in the winter of 1791. He rose to acclaim in the Austrian capital, leaving Nannerl behind. She married and the two were estranged three years before his death. The story opens with Nannerl on her own deathbed. She gives her nephew, also called Wolfgang, an old diary to read. In it she has recorded the story of her search for the reason behind her brother’s death. The younger Nannerl, accompanied only by her maid, travels to Vienna after receiving the news. She feels sad, knowing that she cut herself off from the one person who loved her most, and goes to see his widow, Constanze, who describes her husband’s last few days. Nannerl starts to believe her brother was poisoned and, against the frozen background of Vienna in the days of King Leopold, whose own sister, French Queen Marie Antoinette, lives under arrest, she sets out to unravel the mystery of her brother’s murder. While searching for answers, Nannerl finds more than simply a conspiracy; she also uncovers a side to her beloved brother that she had never before known. Rees nails the details of Mozart’s Vienna with precision, seasoning his story with musical details that will delight fans of classical music. The author renders Nannerl very sympathetic and teases in a touch of romance that is both bittersweet and unexpected. At the heart of the tale lies Mozart’s real-life membership in the Masons, a tiresome and familiar plot device that mars an otherwise lovely story.
A beautiful book illuminated by the author’s own musical background that moves slowly and deliberately to a fine conclusion.