Aria to Death: A Joseph Haydn Mystery by Nupur Tustin. Read an excerpt!

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When Monteverdi’s lost operas surface, so does a killer desperate to possess them. . .

Preoccupied with preparations for the opera season at Eszterháza, Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn receives a curious request from a friend in Vienna. Kaspar, an impoverished violinist with an ailing wife, wishes Haydn to evaluate a collection of scores reputed to be the lost operas of Monteverdi.

Haydn is intrigued until Her Majesty, Empress Maria Theresa, summons him with a similar request. Skeptical of the value of Kaspar’s bequest, Haydn nevertheless offers to help. But before he can examine the works, Kaspar is murdered—beaten and left to die in front of a wine tavern.

The police are quick to dismiss the death as a robbery gone wrong. But Haydn is not so sure. Kaspar’s keys were stolen and his house broken into. Could his bequest be genuine after all? And can Haydn find the true operas—and the man willing to kill for them?


Excerpt

Convinced of the value of his bequest by the attempted theft, Kaspar writes to Haydn seeking his help in authenticating the works. But how did the long-lost operas of an Italian master come to be in the hands of a Viennese merchant?

Herr Anwalt is confident the works will prove to be the operas of the great Claudio Monteverdi. In the maestro’s hand, no less! Only consider their worth, if that is true.

Johann raised his head from the letter he had been reading aloud. “Monteverdi’s operas! All of them!” His voice rose in incredulity as he glanced first at the Konzertmeister and then at Haydn. “It scarcely seems plausible, does it, brother?”

But Haydn, rapt in a study of the undulating landscape visible through the window and the sandstone farmhouses dotting the richly verdant country, made no reply. It was Luigi who spoke.

“It is not entirely impossible, I suppose. The old merchant traveled often enough to Italy.” The Konzertmeister paused to scratch contemplatively at his beard. “You know, he recounted the most unusual tale to me when I was in Vienna.

“Something about an old monk who took such exception to Monteverdi’s music, he dispatched some men to steal it. Every score would have been destroyed. But one of the thieves, enchanted by the music, kept the original and gave the monk a copy.”

Luigi’s remarks had drawn the Kapellmeister’s attention. He twisted around in his armchair, his eyes narrowed. “And the originals passed in some fashion, I take it, to Kaspar’s old uncle?”

Luigi shrugged, spreading his hands wide. “So, old Wilhelm Dietrich claimed. He said he had met the great-grandson of the brigand in question, a printer in Cremona.”

“And it is that tale that forms the basis of poor Kaspar’s hopes?” Johann stared at the Konzertmeister. “It is an amusing anecdote to be sure, but. . .” His eyes drifted toward his brother. “Can it be true?”

Haydn considered the question, chin cupped in his hand. “The more important question,” he finally replied, voicing the thought in a pensive adagio, “is whether the scores contain the music Monteverdi wrote for his operas.”

“And that cannot be determined until you have examined them.” Luigi reached for the letter Johann had placed on the table between them. “Why Kaspar did not enclose them with his letter, I cannot understand. His Serene Highness is hardly likely to grant you a leave of absence at this time.”

“After that first attempt on them, how could he not be wary of entrusting them to the mail coach?” Haydn murmured, his gaze fixed upon the pink roses painted on the table before him. . .

. . . .

“Well, it was fortunate the thieves were not well armed.” Luigi broke the silence that had fallen upon them. “It is odd that they were not. But they could not have been expecting much resistance.”

“An odd fact, indeed.” A troubled expression descended upon the Kapellmeister’s features. “There can only be one reason for it, I fear.”

“You mean that it was a deliberate attempt?” Johann ventured, sounding unconvinced. “But that would mean—”

“That someone knew exactly what the bequest consisted of,” Haydn completed his brother’s thought, his tone somber.

“But who?” Luigi wanted to know.

“Who indeed?” Haydn replied quietly.


About The Author  

A former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem.  The Haydn mysteries are a result of her life-long passion for classical music and its history. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her original compositions, available on ntustin.musicaneo.com.

Her writing includes work for Reuters and CNBC, short stories and freelance articles, and research published in peer-reviewed academic journals. She lives in Southern California with her husband, three rambunctious children, and a pit bull.

 

 

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