by Georg Markus

Review by Cathleen Myers

Over 100 years after her tragic death at Mayerling, Mary, Baroness Vetsera, made headlines again in 1993 when Viennese investigative reporter Georg Markus published an exclusive story about a shocking "break-through" in the Mayerling Mystery. In 1992 a Viennese businessman, obsessed with the Mayerling case, exhumed her body, and, at his own expense, had it examined by Austria’s leading forensics experts before offering Markus exclusive rights to the story. Crime at Mayerling is the story of the mysterious investigation and its results.

If you’re interested in the Mayerling legend, of course, you’ll probably want to read this book. Markus is both an entertaining writer and a good story teller and the book is actually a pretty good introduction to the Mayerling controversy. However, if you already know the story, it won’t tell you anything new. Readers excited by the book’s tremendous hype and hoping for a new and startling solution to the Mayerling mystery will be disappointed. The forensics experts merely confirmed what we had pretty much suspected all along: that Mary Vetsera did indeed die of a gunshot wound through the left temple and, as she was right-handed, the wound could not have been self-inflicted. This would at least seem to disprove some of the wilder conspiracy theories: that Mary survived Mayerling and moved to America, for instance, or that she herself was Rudolph’s assassin. The most probable theory is still that Mary’s death was an assisted suicide, but exactly why she and Rudolph chose to die - if they chose to die - is still unknown.

Since the Hapsburg family will not release the private "Mayerling papers", since certain police files still remain closed to the public, and since official permission to exhume and examine Crown Prince Rudolph’s body is unlikely to be granted, the mystery still remains unsolved. There really is no way to disprove the theory that Rudolph was the victim of a political assassination plot and that Mary was murdered because she witnessed it.

All the same, if you can put up with Markus’ self-dramatization and snobbery (he scorns a rival Mayerling scholar because she has a day job as a servant but he’s very quick to drop aristocratic names , this is a great read. The illustrations alone, including a number of photographs of Mary that we had never seen before, are worth the price of the book. But if you want a more detailed and insightful look at the life, career and death of this tragic young woman, read Philip Morton’s A Nervous Splendor.

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