When his newly hired violinist disappears just weeks before the Empress’s visit, Haydn is forced to confront a disturbing truth...
Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn would like nothing better than to show his principal violinist, Bartó Daboczi, the door. But with the Empress Maria Theresa’s visit scheduled in three weeks, Haydn can ill-afford to lose his surly virtuoso.
But when Bartó disappears—along with all the music composed for the imperial visit—the Kapellmeister is forced to don the role of Kapell-detective, or risk losing his job.
Before long Haydn’s search uncovers pieces of a disturbing puzzle. Bartó, it appears, is more than just a petty thief—and more dangerous. And what seemed like a minor musical mishap could modulate into a major political catastrophe unless Haydn can find his missing virtuoso.
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From Kapellmeister to Kapell-detective
by Nupur Tustin
The Chicken Or Egg Question
Which comes first: the character of a series or the genre? Michael Brown who wrote the delightful Paddington Brown books said he discovered the character first. After that, the bear's adventures pretty much wrote themselves.
Read the books, and the first thing you'll notice is that things don't happen to Paddington so much as Paddington happens to them. This fits the mold of general fiction quite well, but mysteries are different.
In mysteries, as in life, we don't always control what happens to us. Watch any true crime program, and you'll realize just how tragically true this is. Mysteries, like life, are an interaction between character and events, or plot. Oftentimes, plot happens first, and we're left, belatedly, to respond to the awful incident. How we respond depends, of course, on our character.
Mystery writers most often choose their genre, and even their sub-genre, well before the task of researching the novel begins. In order to write a good puzzle-plot mystery, we need to be in control of our plots, and we need a character who'll work with us rather than against us. By this I mean that when I've concocted a crime, I've already determined that it can and will be solved.
I knew I was going to write a historical mystery series. I also knew I wanted to write a biographical mystery. I didn't want to focus on England. Several excellent writers have already done that: Charles Todd, Margaret Frazer, Susan Wittig Albert/Robin Paige, to name just a few.
Some have chosen to write about other writers: Stephanie Barron with her Jane Austen series and Laura Joh Rowland with her Charlotte Brontë series. I wanted to do something different.
So, I turned to my other passion: music. After that it was merely a question of finding the composer with the right personality. I knew Beethoven and Mozart with their prima donna personalities wouldn't do. I needed someone who was approachable and responsible, tactful and discreet.
I found all this and more in Haydn. A personable, warm-hearted, witty individual, he quickly captured my heart.
Haydn's First Case
But what kind of case could I assign Haydn? A Kapellmeister—Director of Music—if he stumbled upon a dead body, as a man of sense, he would naturally leave the matter to the authorities and go about his daily business: composing music, hiring musicians, keeping instruments and scores in order.
When you write a police procedural, the sky is the limit when it comes to the type of case your protagonist can investigate. Inspector Murdoch, for instance, must respond to any criminal matter within his jurisdiction.
But an amateur sleuth needs a more compelling reason to get involved.
Now, as a Kapellmeister, Haydn was responsible for his men. Their welfare was important enough for him to soon earn the affectionate nickname of Papa Haydn.
So, what if a violinist he'd hired went missing just weeks before the Empress Maria Theresa's visit? What if the man were so hated, everyone was quite glad to see him go? And what if the authorities turned a blind eye to the incident, afraid it would jeopardize the imperial visit?
Well, then, Haydn would be compelled to get involved. And he does.
The Challenges of the Hunt
Historical fiction presents the writer with a curious dichotomy. There's a need to be accurate. Why write historical fiction, after all, if you're not going to take the trouble to research the time period? But the operative word in the term "historical fiction" is fiction. Stories have a logic of their own, and storytellers are compelled for the sake of story to take some liberties with their material.
Haydn, for example, didn't have a particularly good relationship with his immediate superior in the Esterházy household, Estates Director Peter Ludwig von Rahier. In story terms, this made Rahier the perfect suspect. But in the beginning I had trouble thinking of Rahier in these terms. If he had ever committed any crime, wouldn't some of my sources have mentioned the fact?
As a former academic, I'm not used to taking liberties with my sources. I'm the sort of person who, when she reads that the journey from Leipzig to Potsdam took two days and a night, will turn to the endnotes to see where the author got the information from. This is the kind of information a musicologist or historian won't provide without citing a source.
So, my academic self had to make peace with my journalist/storyteller persona. I've learned to make the best of both worlds. Because of my research training, I look at more than one source before coming to any conclusions. I'm also able to sniff out accounts that seem more accurate and more credible than others.
But when I can't track down a source or a particular piece of information, I've learned to let it go, and simply rely on my imagination. And I try not to be wracked with guilt by this decision.
Another challenge of writing the Haydn mysteries comes from the fact that although there's a rich abundance of source material not just on Haydn, but on things like autopsies conducted during the period in Austria, it's all in German. My German is unfortunately not up to the task of reading anything more advanced than children's literature! I've had to rely on English translations of sources, and finding material itself involves quite a bit of detective work.
In some cases, I've had to approach the question from a different angle. For instance, for Aria to Death, the second novel in the series, I wanted to find out more about eighteenth-century Vienna, but there was nothing on Haydn's Vienna. Naturally. He'd spend most of his life in Eisenstadt and Eszterháza.
But Mozart had lived and worked in Vienna. Could Mozart scholarship provide me with the material I needed? Fortunately, it did. H.C. Robbins Landon's book, Mozart and Vienna, served my purposes admirably.
Writing to churches and other institutions in Austria hasn't always yielded a response, although an email to a librarian at the Austrian National Library, formerly the imperial library of the Habsburg family, did yield a wealth of fantastic information and resources.
But these challenges are part of what makes writing historical fiction so enjoyable. Hunting down hard-to-find information is like tracking down treasure. And the thrill of finding it makes it all worthwhile.
“A Minor Deception is a wonderful tour de force that pulls the reader into the intricate world of 18th century music, mystery and politics! Elegantly written and plotted, the reader will be hooked from page one.” -New York Times Bestselling Author Emily Brightwell
“. . . will enthrall music lovers and mystery lovers alike. With complex characters and vivid descriptions, the reader will be transported back to the eighteenth century to enjoy a fascinating tale of intrigue. . .” -Kate Kingsbury, Pennyfoot Hotel Mysteries
“A wonderful read for any music lover! Vivid historical descriptions, intricate details, and a fascinating central character kept me turning the pages. Bravo!” –Amanda Carmack, award-winning author of The Elizabethan Mystery Series
About the Author:
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.
For details on the Haydn series and monthly blog posts on the great composer, visit the official Haydn Mystery website. You can also find Nupur Tustin on Facebook and Goodreads.
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A Minor Deception