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by J Sydney Jones
Minotaur Books, January 2010
320 pages
ISBN: 0312383908

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

J Sydney Jones returns with a second mystery in the series starring Karl Werthen, a Viennese lawyer who has recently turned his attention to detective work and his sidekick, criminologist Hans Gross. Following on the heels of a Viennese mystery about the painter Gustav Klimt in THE EMPTY MIRROR, this new story focuses on threats to famed composer and Vienna Opera Director Gustav Mahler. REQUIEM IN VIENNA is just as charming as the first novel and can be read independently of the first book quite easily.

Yet readers won't want to miss either book. Each is a historical masterpiece that keeps readers' attention with its murder mystery storyline, while wrapping them in the world of Vienna at the turn of the century. In addition to focusing on life at the Hofoper (Vienna's Royal Court Opera), other historical situations and real personalities from history (such as the psychiatrist Krafft-Ebing and others) are thrown in to make the story even more than the sum of its parts.

Most of all, readers will come to embrace the main characters in this series, Advokat (lawyer) Karl Werthen and his sensible new bride Berthe, as well as criminologist and side man Hans Gross. Each character is fully formed and inherently likable even when their personality traits are exasperating. Reading the second book in the Viennese Mystery Series was like rejoining old friends, only to remember just how enjoyable their company was.

This story begins with a young singer who comes to Werthen, worried that someone is trying to kill Gustav Mahler. There has been a series of unfortunate incidents at the Opera House that has resulted in the death of one company member (and will eventually lead to others). As the plot develops, questions about other Viennese composers' recent deaths are also raised. Is this a serial killer attacking the great musicians of Vienna, or just someone determined to take out Mahler and throw the detective off the trail?

Trying to ascertain the answers to those questions, Werthen and Gross (obliquely assisted by Werthen's new bride Berthe, the silent force behind the team) set out in a variety of directions, eventually with the assistance of the royal family of Vienna, who see Mahler as a treasure of the city. Mahler has his own quirky way of working, and puts Werthen through his paces, even as Werthen seeks to prevent further harm to Mahler.

It's surely the character composition that will endear readers to Jones's books. REQUIEM IN VIENNA is a quick and enjoyable read that will have readers pining for more of the crime-solving trio (Karl, Berthe, and Hans) and more of the fascinating world that is Vienna, circa 1899. Jones creates a complete and fascinating world for readers, and leaves them wishing for more.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, December 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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