Austrian Mystery With Horses

This mystery book will take you to Austria's beautiful countryside. As it is all about a horse, you also get a lot of history about the Imperial Stud and the Spanish Riding School. As usual with Mary Stewart, her landscape descriptions are masterful and may sway your decision as to where to take your Austrian holiday. And the mystery will keep you guessing to the end.


by +Lucas Dié on Books

Mary Stewart starts her mystery off with a husband who should be in Stockholm appearing on a newsreel featuring a circus in Austria. The few seconds view set the heroine on her path to Vienna and into rural Styria where the circus is touring. From there onward, she leads the heroine, and with her the reader, in a merry dance of mysteries tied up with the circus and one of its horses.


Books with a certain patina aren't always the worst ones to read. This one is definitely worth the time to read it. Airs Above The Ground by Mary Stewart should be part of reading stuff to take along on a holiday to Vienna. Use it as a guidebook extraordinary when you do so to get to places you wouldn't normally have considered to include in your itinerary.


The airs above the ground (Schulen über der Erde) mentioned in the book’s title give the indication that we are dealing with the Spanish Riding School at home in Vienna. The specially trained stallions from the Imperial Piber Stud are trained in the high school (Hohe Schule) of dressage riding. They execute the extraordinary maneuvers called the Levade, the Courbette, and the Capriole. If you've never seen it, then it’s high time you booked your tickets to Vienna.


As the heroine travels through Austria following the circus, one mystery after another starts to unravel. Solving one puzzle just brings that many more questions begging an answer. The pace Mary Stewart sets is fast, the story amusing, and the plot believable. Her teasing way of liberally providing clues, obvious and hidden ones, make readers believe more than once to have solved the mystery before she is ready to reveal it. If that isn't good enough for you, there is more to the book than that.


Mary Stewart has the extraordinary knack of conveying smells, landscapes, colors, sounds, and even the feeling of Austria to the reader. Her descriptions are so much part of story and plots that they never become boring or irrelevant. It is obvious that she has been there, seen it, and then wrote the book. Her descriptions are vivid; readers driving through Styria will be constantly reminded of incidents in the book. As she deals in real places, you might find it amusing and rewarding to follow her heroine’s steps through the beautiful landscape in Styria and towards the Semmering pass.


She also manages to pack some of the long history of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna and the Imperial Stud at Piber into the story and make it part of the mystery. While being entertained, readers are educated at the same time. As she took pains to work on it with the director of the Spanish Riding School, her rendition of that history is correct and detailed to a fault (but not boring, I believe, even for a non-horsey person). Reading the book is an excellent way of making the first steps in getting to know Austria and will give you appetite for more.


Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart was published in 1965 and has been out of print for a number of years. It is available on Kindle.


Further reading