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Vienna Blood

by Adrian Mathews

Publishers Weekly : Though it contains little that's original, Mathews's debut futuristic thriller, which borrows its title from one of Johann Strauss's waltzes, contains much that is excellent. In Vienna late in 2026, Oskar Gewinnler (who writes a column under the penname Sharkey) is approached by that classic noir mystery character, the widow of a friend. She is Petra Detmers, and she thinks her dead husband, Leo, was murdered. Doing a favor for a lady, Sharkey rapidly discovers that Leo was neither the biological child of his putative parents nor the father of Petra's child, but was in fact something else entirely, as well as an accomplished computerized bank robber. The plot rapidly expands to include the future social scene (a wonderfully described costume party), the ongoing war of high technology against high pollution, labyrinthine but clearly depicted politics and the entire history of genetic research. The final revelation concerns a project to create a population with no genetic weaknesses, and therefore immune to the genetically tailored biological agents expected to be unleashed any day. The last third of the book feels rushed, but otherwise this is an admirable work. Major and minor characters resonant with life, thanks in part to fluent dialogue, and the crisp detailing of everything from computer technology to fast food results in a vivid depiction of a Europe many of us may live to see. Here's a debut that deserves an encore. (Sept.)

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