From the desk of Katie Jackson:
When World War II ended and Europe was rebuilding, there was another war of ideologies simmering in the shadows, waiting for a chance to seize control. These ideologies and the influential men conspiring to achieve their glory are the targets of sophisticated spies in a suspenseful tale of espionage, The Mozart Code, by Rachel McMillan.
The British Spies
Simon Barrington and Lady Sophia Huntington-Villiers are former colleagues from Britain’s wartime code-breaking operation at Bletchley Park, as well as childhood friends from neighboring estates and involved in a marriage of convenience. Now known as Simon Barre and Sophie Villiers, whose code name is Starling, they have been tasked by the Secret Intelligence Service to seek out information regarding the new political war being plotted amidst the ruins in the four quarters occupied by competing Allied forces in post-WWII Vienna, Austria.
“Vienna’s usual business of coffee and pastries and music was, on account of the war, swapped for espionage. One could cozy up and bribe people for secrets or trade, to advance the ideologies that would usher in the new war. As long as one had money and time, there were pockets to be filled and men whose allegiances were apt to turn in spite of Vienna’s reputation of being a neutral zone.” (Loc 256)
While Simon uses his privileged upbringing and elegant persona to gain entrance into the social circles of the elite, Sophie uses her reputation as a trustworthy, yet elusive, art enthusiast to connect with the few remaining men of affluence in the city.
“She had helped men from all levels of government, art, academia, and army rank restore some of the opulence and beauty Hitler had taken when he barged into the city and claimed the art as his own.” (Loc 361)
Between the two spies, they are piecing together a complete picture of the political ploys, the powerful men involved, and the ideologies taking hold as Vienna has become a new kind of battleground.
“Recently, author George Orwell had given name to the war of ideas and propaganda: the Cold War. Kalter Krieg. When a country was ripe for the picking, any ideology could find fertile soil to root and grow. And the rich would get richer.” (Loc 278)
But are Simon and Sophie prepared for the sinister side of this new battle when they become the targets?
I appreciated the author’s informative Historical Note, which was well-placed at the front of the book to prepare readers for the story to follow. I have little knowledge of the goings-on at Bletchley Park or of post-WWII espionage in general, so I found the impeccable historical research included throughout the book quite edifying. It provides some timely historical context to the current events occurring near that region recently.
While I did learn quite a bit, I must say that as a plot-driven story, it was challenging to follow at times, which made it difficult to stay immersed in it. I’m not familiar with the German language or any of the locations or composers mentioned, and there was a feel of somehow not meeting the expectation that as the reader I should have already been knowledgeable on the topics presented. There was a lot of factual information about real people and places mixed in, but unfortunately it was not well-blended enough to be seamless for the average reader.
There was some beautifully descriptive prose in this book that created a vivid setting of post-war Vienna, making it easy to imagine the former splendor in the destruction. The incorporation of chess and music and history was clever. This story had a feel of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code mixed with a pinch of The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis.
The slow-burn love story, gradually revealed in flashbacks and minimal interactions, eventually turned into what I would consider a historical romance more than two-thirds of the way through. Until that point, it had read more like a subtly romantic historical mystery.
Fans of historical spy mysteries will be captivated by the suspenseful political intrigue of post-war Vienna in The Mozart Code.
4 out of 5 Stars
- The Mozart Code: A Novel, by Rachel McMillan
- Thomas Nelson (March 15, 2022)
- Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (368) pages
- ISBN: 978-0785235057
- Genre: Historical Suspense, Historical Romance, Inspirational Fiction
We received a review copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Thomas Nelson © 2022; text Katie Jackson © 2022, austenprose.com.
Hello Dear Readers,
Have you read any of Rachel McMillan’s other novels or nonfiction books?
If you enjoy historical suspense with engaging plots and endearing characters, Austenprose highly recommends them.
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Laurel Ann Nattress, editor