Friday, December 2, 2011

"The Silence"

J. Sydney Jones is the author of a dozen books of fiction and nonfiction, including the first two novels of the Viennese Mystery series, The Empty Mirror and Requiem in Vienna. He lived for many years in Vienna and has written several other books about the city, including the narrative history, Hitler in Vienna: 1907-1913, the popular walking guide, Viennawalks, and the thriller, Time of the Wolf.

Jones applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Silence, and reported the following:
The Silence is the third book in my mystery/thriller series set in Vienna 1900. My protagonist, Karl Werthen, is a lawyer who also dabbles in private inquiries. A fictional creation, Werthen is usually joined in his investigations by the real life father of criminology, Hanns Gross, who yearns to test his investigative theories with actual cases.

In The Silence, Werthen is investigating a missing-persons case: the oldest son of powerful industrialist Karl Wittgenstein has disappeared and Werthen is brought in to solve the matter in the quietest and most discreet manner possible. But this investigation soon morphs into a much larger case, leading to the corridors of Vienna's City Hall and to a conspiracy that threatens the very rule of the aged Emperor Franz Josef.

Page 69 of The Silence finds Werthen just beginning to tug at a loose thread that will ultimately unravel this entire skein of deception and conspiracy. Werthen is often and ably accompanied in his inquiries by his wife, Berthe. But in this installment, she has just given birth to their daughter, and Werthen is on his own. Well, not quite.

On page 69 he arrives at his law office in Vienna's First District to discover a visitor waiting for him: his old friend and colleague Gross has come to Vienna from his post at the Franz-Josefs University in distant Czernowitz, where he holds the chair in criminology. Gross, usually quite bluff of manner, seems restrained today, downcast even, and no wonder. Werthen soon discovers that his former mentor has been impressed into escorting his wife Adele through the Vienna ball season of Fasching.

Indeed, the eminent criminologist has already attended the first of what is meant to be many balls, and he was not impressed. Here is Werthen and Gross's exchange on the matter:
‘Well, I for one think it is damn fine of you, Gross. Poor Adele has been pining to attend the Vienna ball season ever since I first met her in Graz.’

‘Oh, long before that, my dear friend.’

‘And you finally consented.’

‘Relented,’ Gross corrected. ‘And there was the plumiest band of dandies and swells in attendance at the ball. Insipid and bored lower aristocracy with too much drink taken. All they could think of doing to entertain themselves was wager thousands of crowns on snail races. My God, what an occupation.’
But Gross's spirits pick up once he learns of the case Werthen is working on. His time in Vienna will not be wasted after all. And Werthen can, indeed, use the help of this pioneer of criminology. Page 69 is thus a crucial turning point in The Silence, setting our investigative team into action.
Learn more about the book and author at J. Sydney Jones' website and blog.

Read "The Story Behind the Story: The Silence,” at The Rap Sheet.

The Page 69 Test: The Empty Mirror.

The Page 69 Test: Requiem in Vienna.

--Marshal Zeringue