The best novels that are set in Vienna and will create a lifelong love for the city

The Books I Picked & Why

The Morning Gift

By Eva Ibbotson

Book cover of The Morning Gift

Why this book?

Recalling Ibbotson’s personal experience of leaving Austria for England before Hitler’s Anschluss, The Morning Gift is a witty and warm marriage of convenience story between a witty and intrepid archaeologist, Quinton Somerville, and a brilliant professor’s daughter Ruth Berger. When Ruth is accidentally left behind in Vienna after her family has emigrated to England, Quin marries Jewish Ruth and protects her from oncoming Nazi occupation: under the condition that they will part ways when both are safely back in London. But Quin and Ruth continue to run into each other again and again and again. A deliciously Austrian-flavoured book. Ibbotson’s Viennese set-sequences and memories are a love letter to her city.


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The Third Man

By Graham Greene

Book cover of The Third Man

Why this book?

Greene wrote much of his screenplay-turned- iconic Cold War thriller at the Café Mozart overlooking the gorgeous Albertinaplatz in Vienna. Immortalized by the 1949 British film,  the story is a dark look at the craters and restoration of the Post-war years in the Allied-occupied city. When author Rollo Martins is invited to visit his old friend Harry Lime in the war-torn city, he finds himself embroiled in racketeering, the seedy schwartzmarkt, and even murder.  This atmospheric look at a city in tatters where cigarettes were a more secure currency than the defunct reichsmarks littering the bombed street, it is a classic of a Vienna still ghostly beautiful but in a period of shift and change. 


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The Huntress

By Kate Quinn

Book cover of The Huntress

Why this book?

From a small office in Mariahilferstrasse, former reporter turned Nazi hunter Ian Graham exercises the war’s demons by narrowing his gaze on infamous war criminal Die Jägerin. While the action eventually moves to America in a cat and mouse chase.  Ian’s time in the occupied city, a side trip to Salzburg, and even a trip up the famous Riesenrad ferris-wheel are highlights of this atmospheric historical read proving that the shadows of Hitler’s Vienna and leftover Nazi sympathizers can be found under every uprooted cobblestone. 


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Vienna Blood: A Max Liebermann Mystery

By Frank Tallis

Book cover of Vienna Blood: A Max Liebermann Mystery

Why this book?

The second in the Liebermann Papers: a mystery series featuring Freud-student Max Liebermann noted as literature’s first psychoanalytic detective who helps the pragmatic and gruff Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt solve some of fin-de-siecle Vienna’s most dastardly crimes. While since made into a successful PBS series, the book’s atmospheric rendering of the Baroque jewel’s opulence is countered by the stark portrayals of anti-semitism, paranoia, and the primitive, cruel, and rudimentary techniques used to “treat” patients suffering from mental disorders.  


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The Accidental Empress

By Allison Pataki

Book cover of The Accidental Empress

Why this book?

The first in the Sisi duology by Pataki,  paints the backdrop of the love story between soon-Empress Elisabeth “Sisi” and her monumental courtship and marriage to Franz Josef. A snapshot of the imperial court in all of its expectations but also Sisi’s magnanimous contributions to the fashion and style of the day. Continue the story Sisi: Empress on Her Own which finds Sisi at the apex of destructive love and power where the fateful tragedy of Mayerling and its eventual toppling of the first domino that will lead to the end of the Habsburg Empire is painted in an intimate and readable style. 

Think of it as the Habsburg equivalent to The Crown.


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