Requiem in Vienna
In 1899 Vienna, the director of the Court Opera, conductor-composer Gustav Mahler, appears to be the intended victim of a series of accidents: first a singer dies when the fire curtain falls on her during a rehearsal, then Mahler’s podium collapses under him. Alma Schindler, who is in love with Mahler, approaches lawyer Karl Werthen to find out who is trying to kill the composer. At first Mahler doesn’t believe the incidents are any more than accidents, but the murder—made to look like suicide—of a violinist who saw the singer killed convinces him that something much more serious is going on.
Werthen, with the assistance of his new wife Berthe and the great criminologist Hanns Gross (a real person, said to be one of Conan Doyle’s models for Sherlock Holmes), investigates the case and finds there are many people with reasons to kill Mahler. Then, when Werthen receives an anonymous letter suggesting that the supposedly natural deaths of Brahms, Bruckner, and Johann Strauss may not have been natural after all, he realizes a murderer may be plotting to kill the great composers ofVienna.
Jones, who has lived in Vienna for twenty years, brings late 19th-century Vienna—its opera house, cafes, and food—brilliantly to life and made me feel as if I were living there. Werthen and Berthe are wonderfully sympathetic characters, and Gross, while not as immediately appealing, clearly possesses a brilliant mind. I would highly recommend this book to music lovers and anyone interested in Vienna.