Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"The Empty Mirror"

J. Sydney Jones is the author of twelve books, including the nonfiction Hitler in Vienna, 1907--1913, the guides Viennawalks and Vienna Inside-Out, and the suspense novel Time of the Wolf. In 1968 he was a student in Vienna and later returned to live there for almost two decades. He currently lives near Santa Cruz, California.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Empty Mirror, and reported the following:
The Empty Mirror is a historical mystery and thriller set in Vienna during the summer of 1898. The mystery involves a brutal series of murders, the last of which has implicated the painter, Gustav Klimt, for it was his model who was the victim. My fictional protagonist, the lawyer Karl Werthen, teams up with an actual historical figure, Dr. Hanns Gross, one of the pioneers of modern criminology, to prove Klimt innocent. This mystery, however, soon morphs into a much wider conspiracy that leads to the very seat of government; that is, to the Habsburgs themselves. It also puts Werthen and Gross into grave danger.

Page 69 in my novel comes at the final page of chapter five and marks the first time that the reader might have an inkling of the wider conspiracy at the heart of the novel. The first quoted passage below is spoken by Gross to his friend and colleague, Advokat Werthen, as they attempt to identify the murder weapon employed in the series of murders. The second interior monologue comes from ... Well, read and discover:

“No, my friend. I am a student of such esoterica as blades and guns. I believe our man has come into possession of one of these new-fangled serrated scalpels the British firm of Harwood and Meier has been experimenting with. Serrated blades leave such feathering and for that reason the technology has not heretofore been used for scalpels, intended for clean, easily repaired cuts. The Harwood model, however, boasts added septic protection as a trade off for the light feathering. Whereas our man was using a traditional steel scalpel or razor before, he has recently switched to the serrated scalpel. And that is, I guarantee you, Werthen, hardly a needle in a haystack. To my certain knowledge, there are only a handful of distributors of the Harwood and Meier blades in this country. We will start then with the distributors and work back to the purchasers. Even if stolen, the blade in question had to originate somewhere.”


He had followed the tall lawyer back from the prison to the building that housed Vienna’s forensic laboratory. The dandified lawyer had no idea he was being tracked; an amateur for certain. And he was getting into water that would soon engulf him and his professor friend. For the moment, they were simply paddling about, testing the water. He smiled at his metaphor. That was good, just paddling about. But sometimes even amateurs get lucky, hit the right current.

For now the two were no threat to him or to his

Another smile slashed his gaunt face. He really was being clever today.
Operation, indeed. It was nearing the end, though, and he felt a kind of sadness at that thought. These murders had been a challenge worthy of him.

He looked up again to the windows of the forensic laboratory and shook his head.

No, they were not a threat. For now.
Read an excerpt from The Empty Mirror, and learn more about the author and his work at the official J. Sydney Jones website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue