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Author of the novel 'The Coffee Legacy', currently being podcast in audio form. Co-producer and writer of 'Every Photo Tells...' podcast, the regular short fiction podcast based on photographic prompts
on April 24, 2011 :
Weiner Blut by Katharina Maimer is set in the famous Austrian city Vienna, or Wien (pronounced "Veen") as it is called in German. "Wiener Blut" is German for "Viennese Blood." I'm sorry to disappoint you vampire fans, but the blood referred to in the title is...coffee. It seems that the city that gave us Mozart, Freud, and Schwarzenegger has coffee running through its veins. Each chapter starts with a recipe for a type of coffee, and then that coffee recipe becomes part of the story. The story is about the owners of a café in Vienna, two women named Isabelle and Karin. The café is old and traditional, the kind where coffee drinkers sit and read newspapers all day and watch the people passing by.
One night Isabelle starts telling her two young boys a charming but unlikely bedtime story about people from another world who are even more obsessed with coffee than the Viennese. These people have been coming to Vienna since the seventeenth century, when coffee beans were found in the supplies abandoned by a fleeing Turkish army. The people from this other world come to Vienna for a couple of years when they are young to teach the Viennese about coffee, like Peace Corps volunteers.
Of course there is more to this story than a fairy tale, and Isabelle is really from the other world. She fell in love with a boy from Vienna when she was young and ran away to be with him. But he, her husband and father of the boys, has been withdrawing from her and has a dark secret of his own. Meanwhile Karin's fiancé leaves her when he learns that he is not the father of her child. The real father is a mysterious figure who also has connections to the other world. Karin has to find out if he is Mr. Right, or in this case, Mr. Coffee.
Things get darker when Isabelle's elderly aunt is murdered in the street, and Isabelle begins to have dreams of the family she left behind in the other world. Her father is the King. Who else would he be? As princess, Isabelle has to go home and find out what is going on in her home world. Trouble is brewing in this caffeinated kingdom as a plot to seize the throne percolates through a family of formerly loyal royal retainers.
The book is, despite a few murders, a fairly light story. Its focus on coffee makes it as obsessed with the bean and its many permutations as a crazed but perky Starbucks barista.
There is a detailed sex scene when Isabelle and her husband confess their secrets and get together again. I didn't say this was a children's book, despite calling parts of it a fairy tale. It's a quirky, fun thriller and fantasy.
The author is a resident of Vienna, and writes well in English, not her first language. She uses German style quotation marks, though, like this: ,,I am talking with German quotation marks." It didn't take me long to get used to them, but since the book is written in English it would probably be better to use the English system. She also calls her city "Wien" throughout. In English it is "Vienna" so in the interest of not confusing English speaking readers, I suggest translating it.
None of that interferes with this fun story, which has a not-quite-as-happy ending as I expected, but still ends up with the villains defeated and good triumphant. At the very end a new light is thrown on the nature of the other world and its people, which readers may find charming or may not like at all. In a fairy tale world where people take cappuccino bubble baths, anything is possible.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)