Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, mystery on December 7, 2017

Aria to Death: A Joseph Haydn Mystery
Historical Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Foiled Plots Press (December 1, 2017)
Paperback: 302 pages


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?


Haydn can find nothing to fault in the scores Her Majesty, Empress Maria Theresa, has acquired. . .

“I shall have to examine the works, Your Majesty.” Haydn opened one of the vellum-bound scores the Empress Maria Theresa had handed him and perused the pages curiously.

He and Johann had accompanied the Prince to Schönbrunn that afternoon and now sat in the Empress’s white-and gold-receiving chambers in the west wing of the summer palace.

“But at a casual glance”—Haydn raised his eyes—“they appear authentic enough.”

He gently rubbed his right thumb over the paper. It felt thick and strong under his fingers. He turned his attention to the binding. The cream-colored vellum was unusually soft and the gold trim exceptionally fine.

Johann reached for the second score the Empress had placed upon a gold stool upholstered in rich crimson and read the dedication within. “The hand appears to be that of a copyist, brother.” He turned toward the Empress, who was still seated at the harpsichord. “As would be quite natural under the circumstances, Your Majesty.”

The Empress’s finely shaped eyebrows drew together into a frown. “I hope you are mistaken, Master Johann. Dr. Goretti swore to me those works were in the composer’s own hand. I have no reason to doubt his sincerity.”

“And yet you would have Haydn authenticate them,” His Serene Highness murmured. His eyes drifted toward the portrait of His Imperial Majesty, Archduke Joseph, set into a panel on the wall behind the Empress.

Haydn suppressed a smile, having glanced up in time to catch the movement in the ornate gilt-framed mirror hanging opposite him. The Prince had complained often enough, as had his Konzertmeister Luigi, of the stinginess of the Archduke’s purse.

“It is the composer’s identity rather than his hand that I desire your Kapellmeister to authenticate, Esterházy!” The Empress’s tone was sharp, her heavy jowls quivering in exasperation.

“If I may be so bold as to ask,” Haydn interjected gently, “how much did Your Majesty pay for the scores?” No doubt the purchase had caused a rift between the Empress and her son and co-regent.

“Pay for the scores!” Her Majesty’s lips protruded into a startled round, blowing her cheeks out. “Why no more than a hundred ducats apiece. But—”

Haydn hastily withdrew his eyes from the portrait looming over the Empress only to find her large blue eyes inspecting him closely.

“I am still Empress, gentlemen.” She fingered the gold lace on her mourning gown of black velvet, her tone even. “But in this instance, I am in complete agreement with my son. It was not entirely for my own pleasure that I bought the music.”

“Her Majesty intends to initiate a revival of opera seria in the capital with the great works of Monteverdi,” the Prince explained without much enthusiasm, his own tastes running to the lighter opera buffa style.

“Among other things.” The Empress’s eyes were veiled. “And too much rests upon it for me to take the word of the good physician who brought it to me.”

“It was a physician who brought these works to you, then, Your Majesty?” Johann leaned forward, his voice rising a little.

The Empress nodded, the skin under her jaw forming loose, fleshy folds under her chin. “Giacomo Goretti. A fine physician, in my opinion, although van Swieten”— she gestured with a well-fleshed but shapely hand  in the direction of the ante-chamber where her imperial physician waited —“would have it otherwise.”

“An Italian?” Haydn enquired, his eyes meeting Johann’s. “And he was only able to bring you these two works, Your Majesty?”

“With the promise of more, as I am sure Esterházy will have mentioned to you.” The Empress shifted her bulk in the direction of the Prince, who nodded wordlessly. “If these prove to be authentic, we shall purchase the entire collection. They will be more valuable still in the great composer’s own hand.”

“And he discovered them, I presume, in Venice,” Haydn hazarded. It was where the great master had ended his days, having left the Mantuan court to assume the position of Kapellmeister at the Basilica of San Marco in the city-state.

“On the contrary. It was here in Vienna that he found them.”

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

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.

Website * Blog * Free Haydn Mystery at Taste of Murder * Facebook * Goodreads


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