In turn-of-the-century Vienna, a lawyer and a criminologist team up to exonerate their friend Gustav Klimt from a false charge of murder.
When police turn his studio upside-down seeking clues in the murder of Liesel Landtauer, a distressed Klimt visits his close friend and lawyer Karl Werthen. One of Klimt’s favorite models, “Sweet Liesel” is the latest in a string of victims who have prompted headline references to “Vienna’s Jack the Ripper.” Werthen appeals to mutual friend Doktor Hanns Gross, a real-life star in the nascent field of criminology who authored Criminal Psychology, to prove Klimt’s innocence. They question Liesel’s landlady and her grieving parents. And they both exasperate and commiserate with beleaguered police Inspektor Meindl, who admits that the evidence against the artist is thin but insists he’s the most likely suspect to feed a public and press demanding the killer’s capture. Once Klimt is taken into custody, Werthen and Gross enact a series of Holmes-and-Watson-style deductions based on body temperature, the depth and angle of the fatal blade’s slashes and so on. A new murder while he’s incarcerated wins Klimt’s release. But his exoneration doesn’t satisfy the duo’s desire to solve the crime, piqued even more when Meindl receives a taunting letter from the killer. Their probe turns into a dangerous adventure with a violent finale.
A well-appointed period mystery with interesting roman à clef notes that remains appealing despite the sometimes flat-footed prose of Jones (Hitler in Vienna, 2002, etc.).