by Nupur Tustin
A Book Review by Jackie Houchin
Nupur Tustin’s 4th Joseph Haydn Mystery, MURDER BACKSTAGE, is as astonishing and well written as the first three, if not better. She knows the history and blends fact and fiction together so well that you believe it all.
In this mystery, Joseph Haydn is involved in the production of an opera in Vienna, but from the start he is not happy with the main singers. However, the Emperor, who owns the theatre, insists that the ones he’s chosen – in particular the beautiful soprano who cannot sing (but who is the Emperor’s paramour) – remain in place. Hayden is to rewrite the arias to suit her.
But before Haydn has a chance to get practice underway, the impresario of the theatre is murdered and Haydn is appointed the temporary manager/producer. The job is full of difficulties – debts not paid, threats of stage hands walking off the job, and the infernal soprano (actually shrieking) who is the thorn in his side.
Besides all this, his middle brother Michael asks him to investigate the murder, believing the wrong man has been arrested – no other than Leopold Mozart, the father of the child prodigy, Wolfgang Mozart. Can Joseph do it and still mount the three productions?
Author Tustin’s intricate plotting, slyly held-back key bits of information, and short scenes kept me in exquisite suspense for most of the book. Each clue is hard won, while the list of possible dispatchers of the poor impresario grows longer with each chapter. But, with the help of his brother Johann and his two razer-sharp maids, Hadyn is able to discover the truth.
My only one tip in reading MURDER BACKSTAGE is to begin the book with a pen and notepad beside you. The list of unfamiliar titles, places, and characters was almost overwhelming in the first chapters. But soon, I was off and running with the very able Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn.