|Vienna, the "capital of the 20th century"|
J. Sydney Jones
Vienna in 1900 was the bustling metropolis of the Habsburg Empire, the home of many ethnic groups, religions, languages, and schools. A paradise for original thinkers, scientists, and artists such as Sigmund Freud, composer Gustav Mahler, and painter Gustav Klimt, but simmering with tensions and contradictions. While Jews composed about 10 percent of the Viennese population, the majority of the intellectual elite was Jewish.
|Karl Lueger, Mayor of Vienna|
|The Rathaus, offices of the mayor and city council|
Lueger isn't the only one doing some turn-of-the-century contemplating. Advokat Karl Werthen doesn't understand what drove his client, Steinwitz, to commit suicide. There was no note, and his life was seemingly untroubled. Werthen is also thinking about one-month-old Frieda. His wife, Berthe, has her hands full with Frieda; her father, Herr Meisner, who is eager for Frieda to have an Aliya (a Jewish naming ceremony); and Werthen's parents, who are equally anxious to see Frieda's Christian baptism. Neither Karl nor Berthe is religious, but they are uneasy about offending their parents. In addition to these concerns, Werthen is chewing over the good luck of his new assistant, Fräulein Erika Metzinger. Recently, there has been discussion about allowing women to attend medical school in Vienna, but legal studies are still off limits. Despite her lack of formal training, Fräulein Metzinger had been recommended by Berthe's friend, feminist Rosa Mayreder. Fräulein Metzinger's intelligence and organizational skills will free Werthen from the routine wills, trusts, and criminal matters of his law practice so he can embrace his real love, private inquiries.
|The Wittgenstein siblings, 10 years earlier.|
Hans is second from the right. Ludwig is the baby.
|Hanns Gross, father of|
|Klimt's Bildnis der Margaret|
While a bit of the history Jones dishes up distracts from the plot, for the most part it is fascinating. The hypocrisies of the Austrian social system and the problems created by its hodgepodge––rather than melting pot––society hold interest for today. I enjoyed The Silence, third in the Viennese Mysteries series. Along with a cup of Viennese coffee and a flaky pastry, make it part of your menu for fall.
Note: I received an free review copy of The Silence from the publisher, Severn House, in exchange for my review.