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The Empty Mirror: A Viennese Mystery Hardcover – January 20, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred 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.)
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From Booklist

In the waning years before World War I, Vienna is an old-fashioned city ruled by the Hapsburg emperors and home to the unconventional artist Klimt. In the summer of 1898, one of Klimt’s models falls victim to a serial killer, and he begs for help in clearing his name. Former criminal attorney Werthen begins a leisurely investigation into the murders, ably assisted by his longtime friend and colleague, the famous criminologist Herr Doktor Gross. The unhurried nature of the investigation affects the pacing of the book. Readers intrigued by the slightly exotic setting of historical Vienna will not be deterred, but those looking for suspense and a faster pace may prefer Will Thomas’ Barker and Llewellyn series (The Black Hand, 2008), set in late-nineteenth-century England. Still, Jones’ novel boasts well-fleshed characters, a good sense of place, and solid plotting—all signs of series potential. This one bears watching. --Jessica Moyer

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1 edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312383894
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312383893
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #745,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"The Empty Mirror," by J. Sydney Jones, is set in Vienna in the summer of 1898. Lawyer Karl Werthen has been bored since he abandoned criminal law six years earlier to specialize in estates and trusts. His life is about to take an unexpected turn as a result of a series of tragic events. An apparent madman has killed five people, both male and female, in the past two months. He mutilated his victims and dumped their bodies in Vienna's Prater amusement park. The police suspect the painter Gustav Klimt of the crimes, since the fifth victim was one of his young and beautiful models. Werner agrees to represent the painter, and in addition, he asks his friend, Hanns Gross, a renowned criminologist, to help investigate the crimes. Unsurprisingly, the two men decide to play sleuth, tracking down leads, interviewing witnesses, and placing themselves in grave danger as they edge ever closer to the truth.

Jones knows Vienna intimately, and he provides colorful details about the culture, architecture, cuisine, and history of this fascinating world capital at the turn of the century. He enjoys name-dropping, inserting such luminaries as Theodor Herzel, Mark Twain, and psychiatrist Krafft-Ebing into the narrative. Unfortunately, the dense plot becomes ever more turgid as the novel progresses, and the aforementioned luminaries are shoe-horned into the story rather than inserted seamlessly. Red herrings abound, leading us to believe that the killings could be the work of an anti-Semite, an anarchist, or someone else with a hidden agenda. By the time the red herrings are disposed of and the puzzle solved, most readers will have lost interest.

Werthen and Gross are an odd couple.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
J. Sydney Jones, a talented author, tells the story of earnest lawyer Werthen and the occasionally quirky but brilliant criminologist Gross on the trail of a very tricky serial killer in turn-of-the-century Vienna. The story opens in a rather familar way -- a prologue describes a young woman walking alone in the night who is frightened. She turns to see who is following her, says "hello" as if she knows the man, and then, we are to understood, is killed. Werthen and Gross form an unlikely partnership that spans several years as they attempt to delve into this and several other deaths. Naturally things take a political turn with a mysterious assassination and various machinations that slow down the duo but do not, of course, stop them. Gustav Klimt, the famous Viennese author appears and reappears in this story as do a few other historical characters of note and we are treated to very detailed descriptions of Viennese streets, foods, and drinks. Unfortunately the prose turns especially bland at these moments. When I saw on the back cover that Jones also writes travel guides, this made more sense to me.

Werthen and Gross became for me almost interchangable in this story -- despite their different backgrounds and I think this is because their "banter" is so heavy and expository. Jones may be trying to go for a Sherlock Holmes and Watson approach, but it simply isn't working here, perhaps partially because of the anonymity of Gross and Werthen.

The plot is interesting -- although decidedly complex -- and Jones seems to know the period and locale well.
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Format: Hardcover
Karl Werthen is a lawyer who specializes in wills in 1898 Vienna. Bored with his practice, he jumps at the chance to become involved in the investigation of a series of murders. It seems that someone in Vienna is killing people, chopping off their noses, draining their blood, and depositing their bodies at the Prater amusement park. The victims are from all walks of life and are seemingly taken out of thin air. So who is killing them and why?

Werthen enlists the help of Dr. Hans Gross, a criminologist who has gained worldwide fame for his use of evidence in crimes, similar to those used by the fictional Sherlock Holmes. ("[Doyle] writes the most fantastic incidents, but insists on using my methods for his main character - this Holmes fellow," says Gross on p. 100.) Together the two investigate the crimes after one of Werthen's friends and clients, painter Gustav Klimt, is accused of killing the most recent victim, who had posed for several of his works. The two figure that if they can prove Klimt is innocent of one of the numerous killings, he must be innocent of all of them! While the painter is in prison for the crime, another person is killed, thus freeing him. The latest victim was a servant to the Hapsburg house and was working on some type of memoir when he died.

When a young man the two interviewed is found dead, all of the evidence points to suicide and he is quickly determined to be the killer. The investigation closes, but quickly reopens a few months later when Empress Elisabeth is assassinated in Geneva. She had met with the most recent Prater victim shortly before his death. Gross and Werthen are sure that the crimes are not only linked, but someone in the House of Hapsburg is behind the killings.
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