Saturday, March 06, 2010

Mystery Book Review: Requiem in Vienna by J. Sydney Jones

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Requiem in Vienna by J. Sydney Jones. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Requiem in Vienna by J. Sydney Jones

by
A Karl Werthen Viennese Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-38390-8 (0312383908)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-38390-9 (9780312383909)
Publication Date: February 2010
List Price: $24.99

Review: Attorney Karl Werthen is barely in business, having just hung up his new plaque ("Advokat of Will and Trusts, Criminal Law, and Private Inquiries") when he's called upon to look into the mysterious events surrounding a series of accidents that have befallen the conductor of the Vienna Court Opera, Gustav Mahler, in Requiem in Vienna, the second mystery in this series by J. Sydney Jones.

It is June 1899 and while preparing for one of the final performances before the summer recess, a heavy curtain, its hem lined with lead weights, falls to the stage while Mahler is present. He escapes injury, but a young diva isn't so lucky. This is but one of several incidents that have occurred. Are these coincidental accidents, or is someone trying to kill the conductor? Alma Schindler, one of Mahler's mistresses, calls upon Werthen to look into the matter. Dr. Hanns Gross, Karl's old friend and colleague, and (if he says so himself) the empire's foremost criminologist, offers to provide secondary support and work as a consultant to the case. Werthen inquires into the lives of many of Vienna's musical society to find an answer as to who wants Mahler dead, and discovers the list is lengthy. But the most promising suspects also have solid alibis. He begins to wonder if his focus is too narrow, that someone might not only want Mahler dead but has also previously targeted -- and may in the future target -- other famous Vienna musicians, some of whom have died under suspicious circumstances.

The best historical mysteries strike a good balance between the history and the mystery. Here, Jones deftly and successfully combines the two in Requiem in Vienna, offering biographical information on Wagner, Brahms, Strauss and others together with background information on the aristocracy of late 19th century Vienna in a solidly plotted whodunit-style mystery story. Adding to the appeal are descriptions of the city itself, which serves as more than just a setting for the book, but also seems to take on the characteristics of a silent partner to Werthen, indirectly assisting him with his investigation. Requiem in Vienna a very interesting and informative, well-paced novel, and is highly recommended.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Requiem in Vienna and to St. Martin's Minotaur for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): At first it seemed like a series of accidents plagued Vienna’s Court Opera. But after a singer is killed during rehearsals of a new production, the evidence suggests something much more dangerous. Someone is trying to murder the famed conductor and composer Gustav Mahler. Worse, Mahler might not be the first musical genius to be dispatched by this unknown killer.

Alma Schindler, one of Mahler's many would-be mistresses, asks the lawyer and aspiring private investigator Karl Werthen to help stop the attacks. With his new wife, Berthe, and his old friend, the criminologist Hanns Gross, Werthen delves into Vienna's rich society of musicians to discover the identity of the person who has targeted one of Austria's best-known artists.

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