Friday, November 14, 2008

The Empty Mirror-J. Sydney Jones

The Empty Mirror
J. Sydney Jones
Dunne, Jan 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780312383893

In the 1890s several inexplicable violent murders rock Vienna. As Austrians watch in fascinating fear, the police suspect artist Gustav Klimt as the culprit predominantly based on the fifth victim Liesel Landtauer who was his model, but lack solid evidence to convict him although they raided his studio. Concerned that he could become the fall guy if police Inspektor Meindl fails to nail the brutal serial killer soon, he asks his friend lawyer Karl Werthen for help. Karl wants to assist Gustav, but also accepts he is out of his element at this point with the need of an investigative expert to take charge.

As Klimt is proven right when the police arrest him on inadequate evidence, Werthen asks criminologist Dr. Hanns Gross to help him uncover the identity of "Vienna's Jack the Ripper." He agrees and with Werthen at his side, Gross begins to follow clues that lead to all segments of Venetian society even as a sixth homicide frees Klimt who has the perfect alibi. However as the killer watches their progress and even sends taunting mail to authorities, influential members of high society want their inquiry stopped while the police continue to focus on Klimt as their end game.

Using real persona in key roles (including Klimt the artist who had the Malkovich movie made of him two years ago and the founder of criminology Gross), J Sydney Jones anchors time and place giving this terrific investigative tale a major historical feel to the story line. Plausible cameos enhance the feel of being in Vienna in the 1890s. The serial killer investigation filled with twists hooks the audience. Historical and late Victorian mystery fans will both relish this excellent whodunit.

Harriet Klausner