Leighton D. Gage
- Published on Amazon.com
La Belle Époque, (it translates as the beautiful era) was the name given, by the survivors of the Great War, to that period between May of 1871 and August of 1914. During those forty-three years, the European powers were at peace, and, looking back over the horrors and privations of the previous four years, it appeared, in retrospect, to have been a golden age.
And, partly, it was.
In the Habsburg Empire, Otto Wagner was designing marvelous buildings; Gustav Klimt was painting up a storm; Sigmund Freud was publishing his seminal works on psychoanalysis and Hans Gross was laying the foundations of modern criminology.
Because the other side of the coin was that the Belle Époque was nowhere near as belle as the name suggests.
It was a time of great inequality, of religious prejudice, of stifling hierarchies, of outrageous privilege and of considerable murder and mayhem.
It is also the time in which J. Sydney Jones sets his novels, the most recent of which is THE SILENCE.
The Silence (Viennese Mysteries)
The place: Vienna; the year: 1900; the principal protagonist: a lawyer we've met twice before (in THE EMPTY MIRROR and REQUIEM IN VIENNA) by the name of Karl Werthen.
I'm certain Werthen is a creature of Jones' imagination, but I'm not entirely sure about many of the other characters. One of the author's admirable qualities is his splendid ability to mix fact and fiction, transforming every book in his series from a mere mystery to a primer of place and time.
And, speaking for myself, I'm never quite sure how much of any Jones book is true and how much is not.
In this installment, we reencounter Klimt and Gross (to name just two of his continuing characters) and meet Karl Lueger, the populist, anti-Semitic mayor of the city and Karl Wittgenstein, Austrian steel magnate, and friend of Andrew Carnegie.
And both the politician and the industrialist play principal roles.
The plot is complex and riveting. Towards the end of the book, the revelations come thick and fast. And, just as you think you have the whole thing figured out, Jones springs another surprise.
He serves it all up, in his typical fashion, with a heady mixture of the sights, the sounds, the smells and the tastes of those distant days.
Most of the tastes, I admit, don't appeal to me at all.
Except for the liver-dumpling soup.
For some inexplicable reason, I've always been fond of leberknödelsuppe.
But foods aside, there's nothing, absolutely nothing, in The Silence not to like.
If you've read Jones before, let me assure you, you don't want to miss this one. He's as good as ever.
And, if you haven't, my suggestion is to get cracking with the series.
You'll be glad you did.