Matt Rees is undoubtedly best known for the series of crime novels set in the Middle East featuring his fictional creation Omar Yussef. Rees gathered the ideas and inspiration for the Omar Yussef series whilst working as a foreign correspondent in the region, but it was during a sabbatical away from the danger and violence, in the more tranquil surroundings of Austria, that the idea for Mozart’s Last Aria started to take shape.
Good historical fiction, whether crime based or otherwise, takes a serious amount of research and it appears that Mozart’s Last Aria is no exception in this respect. So after all that hard work, has the author provided us with a symphony or a jangling dischord?
Read on for a full review…
The death of Vienna’s most shining musical genius at the premature age of thirty-five causes shock-waves through the city and beyond. When Mozart’s widow confides in his sister Anna that he had believed he was being poisoned, Anna feels compelled to return to Vienna from her provincial home to discover the truth. But a web of fear and lies seems to surround events, and these barriers grow ever more insurmountable as Anna seeks to unravel the mysteries and riddles surrounding his death.
So was it a jealous husband, a Prussian spy, a bid to silence him by his Masonic brothers or simply natural causes? Matt Rees has taken the documented historical facts of Mozart’s life and death, and skillfully embroidered over these an exciting and believable fictional mystery scenario.
The language, and political and religious backdrops that underpin the story work well to draw you in to the period setting of the late eighteenth century, and I also found the author’s knowledge of the music added an educational element without ever becoming overbearing. Characters are convincing and well drawn, and in the case of Anna, given increased depth with the back-story of her own musical talent and the career she has had to forego to care for her father and husband.
Overall the result is a very entertaining novel, with little to criticise if you give the author a small amount of license for excessive swooning and crying into handkerchieves. I’m sure it will please a wide readership amongst those who enjoy either historical fiction or crime fiction, and should also find much favour with music lovers – not a bad trick for Matt Rees to have pulled off.
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