Last September, my mystery book group read Requiem in Vienna by J. Sydney Jones. This historical mystery set in 1899 Vienna delves into the colorful history of classical music giants.
This is actually the second book in a series featuring lawyer Karl Werthen and criminologist Hans Gross. Their first cast, The Empty Mirror, involved artist Gustav Klimt (1862 – 1918) who was implicated in the death of one of his models. In Requiem in Vienna, Werthen and Gross are asked to investigate a series of accidents that have targeted composer Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911). One recent accident, a falling fire curtain, resulted in the death of a soprano at the Vienna Court Opera, where Mahler serves as director.
As the pool of suspects–who might wish Mahler dead–widens, Werthen and Gross begin to wonder if the recent deaths of other famous composers, such as Strauss and Brahms, might be related. The historical detail here is well done and transports readers to Vienna at the turn of the last century. The inclusion of real-life people adds to the authenticity.
Some might find the characters of Werthen, Gross, and Werthen’s wife Berthe to be rather progressive for the time period, but this is generally the case with main characters in many historical novels. Although here, it’s also less of a glaring issue. Characters’ dialogue is also appropriate to the time period without sounding stilted.
Lovers of historical fiction or classical music should enjoy this well-written mystery and its fresh setting. Let’s face it; there aren’t too many English language mysteries set in Austria. The mystery plot, itself, did have a few weak moments. One character’s involvement in the crime seemed a bit too coincidental. However, this did not detract from the story.
For more about this series, visit the author’s website here.