A mix of mystery, thriller and romance set in 18th-century Vienna, Dunlap's uneven debut YA novel begins as the body of Theresa Maria's murdered father is brought home. Though he had appeared to be simply a musician caring for his family and passing his love of music to his daughter, Theresa discovers that her father was a spy, investigating the cruelty of Hungarian lords who were persecuting the Gypsies, an intriguing set-up that is not deeply explored. Franz Josef Haydn, the real-life conductor of the orchestra where Theresa's father was a violinist, is losing his eyesight and needs Theresa, his goddaughter, to clerk for him. Like a number of other story points, this one lacks support: why would Haydn trust other musicians with the plot involving the Hungarian lords, but not trust them with the secret of his failing eyesight? While the heady setting and Theresa's determination are enjoyable, the story is a little too ambitious and gets beyond the writer's control. Ages 12- up. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This book is a really interesting trip back in time to a young girl's life of music, mystery, and injustice. The plot is intricate and the characters are believable while the book still maintains a fairy-tale-like quality. Although the story deals with many serious topics such as racism, politics, and power struggles, the tone is light enough to follow with interest. I would recommend this book to girls who enjoy reading about other experiences and cultures. Reviewer: Jane Chen, Teen Reviewer
From the opening chapter when fifteen-year-old Theresa's violinist father is brought home dead, the intrigue does not let up in this mystery set in eighteenth-century Vienna. Theresa turns to her godfather, Franz Joseph Haydn, to find out what happened to her father and his violin and takes her father's place as Haydn's copyist, writing down the music he creates to earn enough to help with expenses for her family. Because of his poor eyesight, Haydn needs Theresa's help to keep his position as the Kapellmeister, the music director for the prince of Esterhazy. As Theresa spends more time at the castle, she becomes embroiled in the politics and discovers that there is a lot about her father she did not know. She tries to unravel what really happened, meets the Hungarian gypsies who live nearby, and learns that her evil uncle is trafficking in young boys when she has to save her younger brother from his grip. Dunlap's book is rich with historical information, including real people and credible details. It is interesting to see how music was physically written and to learn about the demands put on people such as Haydn to create and perform daily. Details of everyday life create a picture of the world these characters live in, including the primitive sewer system and the prejudice under which the gypsies lived. The story is filled with action, and the heroine is both strong-willed and smart. Add a first romance for Theresa and a brand new baby sister and the result is a multilayered believable world. Reviewer: Cindy Faughnan
Dunlap creates a compelling and well-written story with fresh, new ideas to keep the reader intrigued. Interesting and believable characters keep the reader involved and able to enjoy the far-from-familiar tale. Although the book could easily fall into the trap of being a typical mystery and it does follow a basic pattern, the reader never feels led along or deceived; it's simply a good narrative. Reviewer: Ava Donaldson, Teen Reviewer
Gr 7 Up
After Theresa's father is murdered on Christmas Eve, his body is discovered in a Gypsy camp, his precious violin missing. Her mother is with child and not well, so it is up to Theresa to make funeral arrangements and to figure out how their family will survive without Papa's income. Theresa has had an unusual upbringing for a young woman in 18th-century Vienna: she has been taught to play the viola. Even so, it is unlikely that anyone would hire a 15-year-old girl, so she seeks the help of her father's friend and employer, the composer Franz Joseph Hayden. He reveals a secret to her: he is going blind and needs her assistance putting his compositions to paper. While working for him, the teen is also intent upon solving the mystery of her father's death, and she discovers that Hayden's blindness is not the only secret Papa had been keeping. Despite a slow start and an ending that wraps things up a bit too tidily, this book is a rip-roaring adventure with music, murder, and espionage. It's clearly well researched, and the level of detail in the narrative makes readers believe that this story might have actually happened. Theresa's first-person narrative reveals her to be a quick-thinking, courageous, and likable individual. Pair this book with Philip Pullman's "Sally Lockhart" series (Knopf) for some entertaining historical mysteries with plucky heroines.-Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO
A 15-year-old living in 18th-century Vienna finds herself entwined in political intrigue when she boldly investigates her father's puzzling murder. A violinist in composer Franz Joseph Haydn's orchestra at the court of Hungarian Prince Esterhazy, Theresa's father inspired her love of music. When his body is found under mysterious circumstances near a Gypsy camp along the Danube and his violin goes missing, Theresa is determined to uncover the truth. Her search leads her into the forbidden Gypsy camps, glittering ballrooms and dank sewers of Imperial Vienna. The spirited, impetuous Theresa tells her own story, allowing readers to experience the immediacy of rapidly unfolding events amidst the glamour and turmoil of Haydn's Vienna. As Theresa discovers her father's role in a controversial cause supporting Hungarian serfs, she encounters deception and danger as well as honor and loyalty. While Theresa's naive and headstrong pursuit of her father's murderer tests credibility, she's a gutsy, sympathetic heroine who remains true to her friends, in a fast-paced historical adventure that offers a hint of romance. (Historical fiction. 12-16)