When Councilman Reinhold Steinwitz, a protégé of Vienna's charismatic Mayor Karl Lueger, is found dead in his office of a gunshot wound, an apparent suicide, his friend Karl Werthen, lawyer and sometime sleuth (Requiem in Vienna, 2010, etc.), is incredulous that Reinhold, who seemed untroubled, would have taken his own life. But his melancholy is temporarily eclipsed by the news of a valuable and, given the recent birth of his daughter Frieda, much needed commission. Werthen's good friend, the artist Gustav Klimt, recommends him to his friend, wealthy Karl Wittgenstein, whose eldest son Hans has gone missing. (Hans' ten-year-old brother Luki, youngest of the large family, will become famous years later as Ludwig Wittgenstein.) Though duty-bound to search, Karl, who assumes that his son is sowing wild oats, seems indifferent to his disappearance. Werthen gains a far different picture of Hans from other members of the family and classmates, who use the perhaps coded word "artistic" to describe him. Indeed, when he finds Hans, the circumstances might be characterized as compromising. Hans' sexually ambiguous friend Henricus Praetor is the reporter who wrote a series of corruption stories about Steinwitz. When Praetor commits suicide, Werthen finds himself following a new mystery.
Jones' measured, stately prose is perfectly in tune with his period setting and his hero's intense intellectual curiosity. Though sometimes he strains to shoehorn in period detail, his intricate plot unfolds with suspense and style.