"What dastard is trying to kill the great Gustav Mahler?
Singers call Vienna’s new Court Opera Director “the drill sergeant,” an unflattering title certainly influenced by a streak of anti-Semitism directed against the Jewish Mahler. In May 1899, a rehearsal of Wagner’s Lohengrin takes a tragic turn when an asbestos fire curtain falls and kills soprano Margarethe Kaspar. In light of several recent accidents at the theater, it looks as if someone has it in for the new director. Beautiful, ambitious Alma Schindler, who will be known to readers familiar with classical-music history, hires lawyer and sometime sleuth Karl Werthen (The Empty Mirror, 2009) to investigate, which seems to confirm the local gossip delivered to Werthen by his friend, painter Gustav Klimt, that the lady has set her romantic sights on Mahler. In light of Alma’s aggressive feminine charms, Werthen’s soulmate and wife Berthe is even more conscientious than usual in assisting him in his investigation. Pioneering criminologist Dr. Hanns Gross, another real-life character, returns from self-imposed exile to help his old friend Werthen as well. There’s no dearth of suspects, including perhaps Mahler himself (Margarethe was becoming an inconvenient mistress). So it’s no surprise that Werthen and Gross uncover layers upon layers of machinations and betrayals in the microcosm of the opera house.
Confident prose and mastery of historical detail, woven into a convincing narrative, make this sophisticated entertainment of a very high caliber."
"A young woman hires a lawyer to find out who’s trying to kill the man she loves. At first the lawyer is skeptical, but soon he realizes that certain suspicious incidents have only one explanation: murder. But who’s the would-be culprit, and can he be stopped before he finally succeeds? Sounds like a pretty ordinary thriller, except that it’s set in 1899 Vienna, and the villain’s target is Gustav Mahler, the noted Austrian composer and conductor. Lawyer and investigator Karl Werthen, the hero of 2009’s The Empty
Mirror, teams up with criminologist Hans Gross to find out whether there might be an evil plot afoot: with the recent deaths of Strauss and Brahms, it looks like someone might be systematically killing off Vienna’s musical geniuses. This is a rich, beautifully written historical mystery, with a unique setting and a compelling lead. The author’s use of real people—Mahler, Gross, and painter Gustav Klimt among them—gives the book the feel of actual history, and his careful re-creation of the Viennese setting transports us to the place and time. A first-class historical mystery that builds on the promise of its predecessor."
"Set in 1899, Jones's fine second Viennese mystery (after 2009's /The Empty Mirror/) opens with a falling fire curtain narrowly missing Gustav Mahler, the director of the Vienna Court Opera, but killing a soprano during a stage rehearsal. Lawyer and private inquirer Karl Werthen teams with criminologist Hanns Gross to look into this and subsequent “accidents” apparently aimed at Mahler. As the investigation descends into the “damned politics of music,” Mahler, a former Jew who must be careful to hide his contempt for fellow composer Richard Wagner, emerges as the nexus for an “ever-widening pool of suspects.” Complicating matters are big changes in Werthen's home life, in particular wife Berthe's pregnancy. Jones, the author of /Hitler in Vienna, 1907–1913 /and other nonfiction books about the city, smoothly blends a compelling period whodunit with bountiful cultural and social details."
Green Man Review
"Set in Vienna in 1898, Jones's absorbing whodunit succeeds both as a mystery and as a fascinating portrait of a traditional society in ferment. When artist Gustav Klimt becomes a suspect in a series of bizarre murders, he turns for help to his lawyer friend, Karl Werthen, who joins forces with real-life pioneering criminologist Hanns Gross. Werthen and Gross follow a trail that leads through all strata of Viennese society and threatens to put them at odds with not only a trained killer but powerful members of the ruling class. Jones skillfully incorporates into his narrative many of the notable figures who lived in Vienna at the time. Some, like Klimt and sexologist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing, play important roles, while others, like Zionist founder Theodor Herzl and visiting American author Mark Twain, make brief but highly appropriate appearances. Jones (Time of the Wolf) delivers a meaty historical that bodes well for further adventures."(Jan.)
"Jones keeps his mystery moving along with a good deal of skill, but the greatest interest of the novel lies in its glimpses of the political passions and bizarre occurrences of the era.... In recent years, fin-de-siecle Vienna has shown signs of becoming to literary thrillers what 1940s Los Angeles is to noir. The Empty Mirror, a colorful story that neatly combines fact and fiction, suggests why." Read more
"It begins as a serial-killer tale, ends as a political thriller and is informed by the history and culture of fin-de-siecle Vienna.… J. Sydney Jones' The Empty Mirror … is the first of a promising new series that mixes fictional characters with historical ones -- to the plot's great advantage.… The author also sprinkles other historical Austrians into this compelling novel, including psychiatrists Sigmund Freud and Richard von Krafft-Ebing, and the result is a treat. And his characterization of Werthen -- an assimilated Jew who chafes at his parents' well-intentioned meddling into his personal life and his career -- is absorbing. Jones, who lived in Vienna for almost 20 years, deftly melds fact with fiction in a novel that will appeal to mystery aficionados as well as history buffs."
"A well-appointed period mystery with interesting roman a clef notes...appealing."
"Jones' novel boasts well-fleshed characters, a good sense of place, and solid plotting--all signs of series potential. This one bears watching."
"An intriguing, dark novel woven round historical facts and figures, set in the lush, breathing labyrinth of Klimt’s Vienna."
"What Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did for Victorian London and Caleb Carr did for old New York, J. Sydney Jones does for historic Vienna.... The Empty Mirror is a new classic mystery for discerning readers."
"A rollicking rollercoaster ride through Vienna's Prater Park complete with mysterious murders, a carload of famous names, and a pair of detectives who know enough about Viennese pastries to make your mouth water. History and fiction cleverly combined by a master storyteller."
"J. Sydney Jones breathes life into turn-of-the-century Vienna in his stylish and atmospheric The Empty Mirror.... If you like the style and convoluted plotting of say, Conan Doyle, but with a modern sensibility, The Empty Mirror should be right up your alley." Read more
"Mr. Jones' expertise on the city makes his book almost a travelogue, as he embellishes dramatic scenes with informed commentary on historical developments and local landmarks...This would be the ideal book to take on a trip to Vienna." Read more
Genre Go Round Reviews