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Requiem in Vienna: A Viennese Mystery    by J. Sydney Jones order for
Requiem in Vienna
by J. Sydney Jones
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2010 (2010)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The first entry (set in 1898) in this Viennese historical mystery series, The Empty Mirror, introduced readers to Advokat Karl Werthen (from a Jewish family that long since converted and seeks to blend) and his close friend, real-life pioneering criminalist Doktor Hanns Gross - a Holmes to his Watson. In their first adventure, they tracked down a vicious serial killer and Karl met the love of his life, the strong-minded Berthe Meisner.

Now, in Requiem in Vienna, it's the summer of 1899 and the city mourns the death of Waltz King Johann Strauss. Karl and Berthe have settled into married life and he's added Criminal Law, Private Enquiries to his office sign's previous Wills and Trusts. A lovely young woman, Alma Schindler, asks Karl to investigate a series of apparent accidents that have affected famed composer Gustav Mahler, director of the Vienna Court Opera. In the latest, an asbestos fire curtain fell suddenly and crushed a young soprano, whom Mahler had been upbraiding.

As Karl and Berthe begin their investigation of the accidents, Hanns Gross shows up in Vienna for a conference - and of course, jumps into the case feet first. Though Berthe is initially unhappy to be pushed aside, the discovery that she's pregnant - and her ensuing severe morning sickness - limit her own role. As attempts against Mahler continue, the investigators compile a long list of those with motive and/or opportunity to do Mahler in. They also wonder about accidental deaths - and bouts of insanity - that afflicted other great composers.

Though the mystery intrigues, what I enjoy most about this series is accompanying Werthen and Gross as they stroll around Vienna, sampling culinary delights such as sausages and sauerkraut, and apple strudel. Jones also tosses in fascinating historical detail like composers' habit of enciphering musical jests and hidden codes in their work. Historial mystery fans will revel in Requiem in Vienna, an engaging musical mystery that builds to a crescendo of a conclusion in which Karl Werthen races against time to prevent an explosive finale.

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