Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Matter of Breeding by J. Sydney Jones

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Historical Novel Review/Netgalley
Read: April 30, 2014

1901. Karl Werthen and his colleague, renowned criminologist Dr Hanns Gross, are investigating a bizarre series of murders in the small Austrian town of Graz. Meanwhile, back in Vienna, Karl's wife Berthe is looking into what seems to be a fraudulent breeding scheme involving the prized Lipizzaner horses. Could the two investigations be connected?

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The fifth installment of Jones’ Viennese Mystery series finds Karl Werthen and Dr. Hans Gross puzzling over a peculiar succession ritualistic of murders in the close-knit village of Graz. In her husband’s absence, Berthe Werthen has stumbled onto a mystery of her own, a conspiracy that threatens to destroy one of Austria’s most recognized treasures: the world renowned Lipizzaners of the famed Spanish Riding School. Following a complex series of leads, the Werthens soon discover themselves in a high stakes web of violence, scandal and corruption.  

A brilliantly atmospheric novel, A Matter of Breeding paints a remarkable portrait of Vienna at the dawn of the twentieth century. The city literally comes to life in a radiantly authentic display of pageantry and prejudice, effectively drawing the reader into a bygone age. Cameo appearances by Archduke Franz Ferdinand, artist Tina Blau, and author Bram Stoker deepen the illusion and bring genuine flare to the narrative. 

The mystery itself is elaborate and thought-provoking and though I felt it somewhat overwhelming, I honestly appreciate the underlying themes of Jones’ intrigue. The characterizations are rather thin, suggesting it best to read the books chronologically, but all told I found A Matter of Breeding both enjoyable and entertaining. 

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Gross could well understand the man’s concern. Nearing retirement, Thielman wanted simple pathological killings, not some religiously motivated murder that would spark a racial firestorm.
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