Vienna, 1909. When the celebrated actor Eugen Bischoff is found shot dead in his garden pavilion, suspicion falls immediately on Baron von Yosch, a well-to-do army officer who was once the lover of the dead man's wife, Dina. By all appearances, the actor took his own life— two shots had rung out, and the door was locked from inside—but clearly someone, or some thing, drove him to it. While Dina's brother prepares to expose the baron, two of the actor's friends accept his claims of innocence and lend their support...
Vienna, 1909. When the celebrated actor Eugen Bischoff is found shot dead in his garden pavilion, suspicion falls immediately on Baron von Yosch, a well-to-do army officer who was once the lover of the dead man's wife, Dina. By all appearances, the actor took his own life— two shots had rung out, and the door was locked from inside—but clearly someone, or some thing, drove him to it. While Dina's brother prepares to expose the baron, two of the actor's friends accept his claims of innocence and lend their support to solve the mystery. Meanwhile, within a few days other, similar suicides are reported. And what started out as a straightforward effort to establish the actor's last deeds becomes a search through the ages, in an atmosphere of deepening terror, for an invisible enemy identified only through the actor's dying whisper, '...the Day of Judgment.' In this probing mystery, Leo Perutz combines his hallmark blend of suspense and the fantastic in a tale that leads back into history and forward to the bloodred trumpets of the Apocalypse, to a day of judgment that each of us carries within himself.
Perutz was born in Prague, lived in Vienna and fled the Nazis to Israel, where he died in 1957. His work, which Arcade has been issuing in translation at intervals, has been admired by such writers as Ian Fleming, Graham Greene and Jorge Luis Borges. In this 1921 novel, the style is clear and brisk, the narrative technique assured, the atmosphere (pre-WWI Vienna) convincingly caught in myriad details. The narrator, Baron von Yosch, is a titled army officer who has lost his former mistress to an actor; he is with them at a chamber music soire when the actor is mysteriously shot. Although the death looks like suicide, suspicion falls on the baron. Another member of the party resolves to solve the mystery and so, after first thinking to flee, does the baron. Other strange suicides occur during their search. The actual resolution, though highly intriguing, is less gripping than the search itself. Perutz reserves another surprise, however, throwing his macabre tale into a new light on the very last page. Imagining, if possible, a combination of the works of Conan Doyle, Dostoyevski and Kafka gives a fair idea of the tone of this weird little novel. (Oct.)
A casual account of an unexplained suicide interrupts a musical evening at the Bischoff villa, home of Vienna's reigning actor. As Eugene Bischoff finishes the tale, all in his small audience are skeptical except the military engineer, who immediately begins analyzing the mystery. His efforts gain urgency when moments later the actor shoots himself dead. Suspicion falls on the baron, a man of dubious character, but the engineer sets out to clear him. Chasing through 1909 Vienna, they find at every turn another baffling suicide. Only at great peril do they finally discover the fantastic impetus behind all the deaths. Though narrower in scope than other Perutz masterpieces (The Swedish Cavalier, LJ 7/93), this is a dark mystery as well crafted as any in the growing Perutz canon. Recommended for larger collections.-Paul E. Hutchison, Bellefonte, Penn.
Although Perutz, a native of Prague, died in Austria in 1957, his writing has only recently been published in the U.S. Perutz, considered by many to be a master of literary and historical fiction, turns here to genre fare, offering a cerebral thriller. Set in 1909 Vienna and written in formal, stately, stylized prose (the manner of the time), the novel concerns the plight of Baron von Yosch, accused of the murder of actor Eugen Bischoff, whose wife was once von Yosch's mistress. Von Yosch, a guest at Bischoff's house at the time of the actor's death, is convinced that some powerful, unknown force drove the man to suicide. With the aid of two other guests who were at the house on the fateful night, von Yosch decides to investigate, thus beginning a journey that leads him to a terrifying, centuries-old secret. Perutz's writing is a study in subtle contrasts--he is playful and somber, dignified and quixotic, harsh and gentle. This gifted author weaves a spellbinding story that will enchant, mystify, and astonish his readers. An ideal choice for those who like stylish, literate mysteries.