Lead Review

  • Book: The Second Rider
  • Location: Vienna
  • Author: Alex Beer

Review Author: tripfiction



Vienna, post WW1, is a pretty desolate and run down place. Poverty abounds and the only functioning market is the black one. Basics, like coffee and eggs, are a real treat. The streets are occupied by the homeless – many are soldiers returned from the war to find a very different city to that which they had left. Much of the black market functions (literally) underground – with the sewers used to store and transport the goods. Some people have grown very rich indeed on the back of illegal trade.

August Emmerich is a detective in the city. He is also a veteran who uses alcohol and too much heroin to control the pain from a war wound. He, and his junior partner, Ferdinand Winter, are involved both in tracking down black market smugglers and in investigating a series of murders in the city. The two cases inevitably overlap – with dark deeds on the eastern front returning to impact the post war city.

The Second Rider is a really good and very human thriller. The characters are humorous and well drawn. The story bowls along to a thrilling and unexpected conclusion, and the writing style draws the reader right in.

But the book is so much more. It is also meticulously researched historical fiction. Post WW1 Vienna is beautifully recreated. The sewers were used for major black market trade, prostitution flourished, and heroin was the wonder pain killing drug of the moment. Many of the streets and buildings in the books still stand – as do may of the bars and restaurants our detectives visited (although some now have different names and a different class – up and down – of clientele). It would be a great TripFiction day to walk round the city tracing the action!

This is the first Alex Beer book that has been translated into English (although she now has a large and loyal following in her native Austria). I hope very much that others will follow. She is a very bright and engaging talent.

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