Master of the Day of Judgement

Leo Perutz, Author, Eric Mosbacher, Translator Arcade Publishing $19.95 (148p) ISBN 978-1-55970-171-6
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 soiree 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.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/1994
Release date: 10/01/1994
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