June M. Blurton is a retired speech/language pathologist.
It is 1913 and the Austro-Hungarian Empire is on the verge of collapse.
In Galicia, on the border with Czarist Russia and far from Vienna, the
corrupt Count-Governor Wiladowski is aware of rumblings of discontent
among the poorest of the city’s Jewish population. He and his
spymaster, Jakob Tausk, institute extraordinary measures to ensure the
safety of Wiladowski, the local nobility, and wealthy citizens. The
latter group includes Moritz Rotenburg, the richest Jewish businessman
in Austria. Although Rotenburg does not mix with the local social set,
his son Hans not only counts the sons of the nobility as his friends but
is their leader in a revolutionary plot. Tausk makes this discovery when
he and his fellow spies steam open letters and keep the group under
surveillance. Things come to a head when a charismatic rabbi incites his
followers to violence and murder just when important visitors are coming
Although the story lacks a clear point of view and is bogged down by
the author’s verbose writing style, it is worth reading for the
insights it provides into urban living conditions and the tensions that
existed between disparate social groups almost a century ago.