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Mozart's Last Aria: A Novel Paperback – November 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“Matt Rees cleverly weaves music, crime, and conspiracy into a sumptuous historical whodunit, set against the decadent backdrop of 18th-century Vienna.” (Marie Claire)

“Rees nails the details of Mozart’s Vienna with precision, seasoning his story with musical details that will delight fans of classical music. . . . A beautiful book lluminated by the author’s own musical background that moves slowly and deliberately to a fine conclusion.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Engaging, well-paced. . . . Combining Dan Brown or Elizabeth Kostova–style historical conspiracy theory with cozy detective novel, Rees’s latest offers a genuinely felt reverence for the power of Mozart’s music and its lasting impact in the world.” (Publishers Weekly)

“An excellent choice for mystery fans and historical fiction readers.” (Booklist)

“Mozart, music, and murder seamlessly blend together in this fascinating historical mystery. A perfect read to go with a crackling fire and a pot of hot chocolate.” (Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Girl)

“A stunning combination of mystery and meticulously researched historical fiction. . . . A sweeping, gorgeously written book.” (Tasha Alexander, author of Dangerous to Know)

“Mozart fans and codecrackers will enjoy the clever musical riddle. A very readable historical mystery romp.” (The Times (London))

“This absorbing Viennese soap opera is a solid choice for readers who like fiction about historical figures caught up in suspenseful intrigues such as Matthew Pearl’s The Dante Club or Gyles Brandreth’s Oscar Wilde mysteries.” (Library Journal)

From the Back Cover

The news arrives in a letter to his sister, Nannerl, in December 1791. But the message carries more than word of Nannerl’s brother’s demise. Two months earlier, Mozart confided to his wife that his life was rapidly drawing to a close . . . and that he knew he had been poisoned.

In Vienna to pay her final respects, Nannerl soon finds herself ensnared in a web of suspicion and intrigue—as the actions of jealous lovers, sinister creditors, rival composers, and Mozart’s Masonic brothers suggest that dark secrets hastened the genius to his grave. As Nannerl digs deeper into the mystery surrounding her brother’s passing, Mozart’s black fate threatens to overtake her as well.

Transporting readers to the salons and concert halls of eighteenth-century Austria, Mozart’s Last Aria is a magnificent historical mystery that pulls back the curtain on a world of soaring music, burning passion, and powerful secrets.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062015869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062015860
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #926,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm an award-winning British crime novelist. Major authors have compared my writing with the work of Graham Greene, John Le Carre, Georges Simenon and Henning Mankell. French magazine L'Express calls me "the Dashiell Hammett of Palestine." Read more about my books, hear my podcasts and see extra features at

My first book was non-fiction about the Middle East, where I live. When that was done, I was looking for my next project and came up with the idea for Omar Yussef, my Palestinian sleuth, while chatting with my wife in our favorite hotel in Rome. I realized I had become friends with many colorful Palestinians who'd given me insights into the dark side of their society. Like the former Mister Palestine (he dead-lifts 900 pounds), a one-time bodyguard to Yasser Arafat (skilled in torture), and a delightful fellow who was a hitman for Arafat during the 1980s. To tell the true-life stories I'd amassed over a decade, I decided to channel the reporting into a crime series. After all, Palestine's reality is no romance novel.

THE NOVELS: My latest one is MOZART'S LAST ARIA, a historical thriller set in Vienna in 1791. The main character is Wolfgang Mozart's sister Nannerl, who investigates the great composer's death. It's based on my own love for Mozart's music, my fascination with his often-forgotten, talented sister, and my reading of recent historical research which shows that Wolfgang may well have died suspiciously. It's out in the UK in May and in the US in November. I learned piano so I could write about the Maestro's music. For my next book, which is based on the life of Italian artist Caravaggio, I'm learning to paint with oils and duel with a seventeenth-century rapier.

The first novel in The Palestine Quartet, The Collaborator of Bethlehem (UK title The Bethlehem Murders), was published in February 2007 by Soho Press. In the UK it won the prestigious Crime Writers Association John Creasey Dagger in 2008, and was nominated in the US for the Barry First Novel Award, the Macavity First Mystery Award, and the Quill Best Mystery Award. In France it's been shortlisted for the Prix des Lecteurs. New York Times reviewer Marilyn Stasio called it "an astonishing first novel." It was named one of the Top 10 Mysteries of the Year by Booklist and, in the UK Sir David Hare made it his Book of the Year in The Guardian.

Colin Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse novels, called Omar Yussef "a splendid creation." Omar was called "Philip Marlowe fed on hummus" by one reviewer and "Yasser Arafat meets Miss Marple" by another.

The second book in the series, A Grave in Gaza, appeared in February 2008 (and at the same time under the title The Saladin Murders in the UK). The Bookseller calls it "a cracking, atmospheric read." I put in elements of the plot relating to British military cemeteries in Gaza in homage to my two great uncles, who rode through there with the Imperial Camel Corps in 1917. One of them, Uncle Dai Beynon, was still around when I was a boy, and I was named after him.

The third book in the series, The Samaritan's Secret, was published in February 2009. The New York Times said it was "provocative" and it had great reviews in places I'd not have expected - The Sowetan, the newspaper of that S. African township, for example.

THE FOURTH ASSASSIN, the fourth novel in The Palestine Quartet, was published in February 2010. In it, Omar visits the famous Palestinian town of Brooklyn, New York (there really is a growing community there in Bay Ridge), and finds a dead body in his son's bed...

AROUND THE WORLD: My books have to leading publishers in 24 countries: the U.S., France, Italy, Britain, Poland, Spain, Germany, Holland, Israel, Portugal, Brazil, Norway, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Romania, Sweden, Iceland, Chile, Venezuela, Japan, Indonesia, Greece, Turkey, and South Korea.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Blue in Washington TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Matt Rees is a fine mystery writer and you expect a good storyline with his novels. "Mozart's Last Aria" certainly delivers on that expectation. Rees builds this historic novel on the long held theory that Wolfgang Mozart, who died in 1791 at age 36, was actually murdered. Here the death is tied to Mozart's involvement with a politically controversial masonic lodge that had connections with the Kingdom of Prussia. The "police procedural" in "Mozart's Last..." is pursued by the composer's estranged sister, Maria Anna aka Nannerl, who is driven by both love of her brother and great sibling guilt for not having been there for him in his time of financial stress and illness. The investigation and its discoveries are clever and convincing. The author has clearly put a lot of research and personal interest into the plot.

A second strong point for this novel is the inclusion of a great deal of detail about Mozart's music, discussions of 18th Century music performance and descriptions of daily life in Vienna of the time. All of this puts good flesh on the bones of Rees' storyline.

Where I had some problems with "Mozart's Last Aria" was with the characters. The portrayal of the central player Nannerel as a kind of avenging angel, whirling around (the action takes place in a matter of several days) Vienna interrogating some of the movers and shakers of the period somehow just didn't seem credible. Ultimately, Nannerl does not emerge from the story as very likable or even admirable. Maybe that wasn't the point, but as protagonist, she could have been given a few more positive qualities and heft (in my opinion). Likewise, some of the novel's other characters are not fully fleshed out and, for me, lacked real credibility in their roles as well.

Even with the reservations about the book's characters, on the whole, this is a pretty good read from a skilled writer.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Alla S. VINE VOICE on November 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
In "Mozart's last aria," Matt Rees takes the real-life historical mystery of Mozart's murder, and uses real-life facts and characters to present a possible solution to the case.

In the early 1790s, Europe is facing some major problems. The French Revolution is going on in France. Prussia and Austria are sworn enemies. And Mozart loses his life in mysterious circumstances, suspecting poisoning. Mozart's story kicks off when his sister, Nannerl, is dying and gives Mozart's son the diary she kept. Upon learning of Mozart's mysterious death, Nannerl leaves her village of Salzburg and travels to Vienna, where her brother Mozart had gained success and gained entry to the highest social circles. Nannerl's aim is simple: find out what happened to her brother.

Except, the world she encounters is a different Vienna than in her youth. The atmosphere is no longer open and laid-back, but secretive and deceptive. As Nannerl meets some of Mozart's friends--piano pupil Magdalena Hofdemel, actor Karl Gieseke, patron Prince Lichnowsky, impresario Emanuel Schikaneder, musician Anton Stadler, and head of imperial library Baron Swieden--she can't help feeling that they know something about her brother's murder. As Nannerl starts questioning them, she enters a dangerous game--as she is attacked on the street, and forced to fear for her safety.

Overall, this is a seductive read. Initially I was concerned that the historical details and multitude of characters might interfere with the writing, but thankfully this was not the case. Right at the beginning of the book, Rees provides the reader with a list of characters and their identities. The writing itself, despite the amount of historical data, is easy to follow. Yet, the mystery itself is anything but simple. Every time you think the killer is unmasked, Rees takes it one step further. I thought it was an interesting, well thought out mystery.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
I have long been a fan of Matt Rees's books and eagerly anticipated reading Mozart's Last Aria, his latest one. I was not disappointed.
At the end of the book he includes the story behind it (which is very interesting reading on its own). He wrote that the novel is written in the form of a sonata (the A minor or K310). He identifies three movements: the opening Allegro maestoso, disturbing and almost discordant; the thoughtful Andante contabile con espressione; and the Presto, which refers back to the Allegro maestoso as the story is resolved. (All that informtion is in the book.) That idea may work for many crime novels and provides a very different way of looking at the text.
"The Magic Flute" plays a very important role and has a lot of secrets hidden within its score.
The protagonist is Mozart's sister, Nannerl. She received a letter from Mozart's wife a week after his death. The letter arouses her suspicions about the cause of his death because it says he claimed to have been poisoned. Even though they had not been in contact for three years, she leaves her husband, against his wishes, their two children, and his five boisterous children from previous marriages to go to Vienna.
While there, she reconnects with her sister-in-law, with whom she has not had a good relationship, and meets many of Mozart's friends and associates. While she tries to find out what happened to her brother, her life is threatened and another friend of his is killed. She tries to determine a motive for killing him. Jealously, politics, and equality all are possible.
By the end of the book, the reader will learn that there is not one villain.
Mozart's Last Aria is an excellent read.
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