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Darkness over Vienna

  • Feb 11, 2010
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First, my thanks to Random House, who sent me an ARC of this book.

This is book #4 (and the most recent) of the series entitled The Liebermann Papers, set in turn-of-the-century Vienna.  Although this one wasn't my favorite of the series -- that honor goes to Fatal Lies -- it was still a good read. 

A series of grisly and seemingly impossible murders is keeping the police busy in Vienna.  People are being decapitated in a most gruesome fashion -- their heads seemed to have been literally ripped off.  But there are no suspects, no clues, and the method of death confounds the authorities.  Oskar Rheinhardt calls once again on Max Liebermann, the young psychiatrist who is a serious follower of Sigmund Freud, to help wrap their collective heads around these crimes and try to fathom who could be responsible.  But crime is not the only thing Liebermann has on his mind.

Once again, we are transported back to that time period through Frank Tallis' writing...the coffeehouses, architecture, music and culture of Vienna are vividly portrayed.  He also briefly introduces his readers to the beauty of Prague's culture of the time in a whirlwind tour to that city, and to a bit of Jewish mysticism.   But there's also a darker side rising up alongside all of  the gaiety, and that is the true focus of this novel (and also explains the UK title of this book, Darkness Rising -- which, imho, is the ultimate perfect title). At this time in Vienna, anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head, beginning to grow in force (indeed, throughout the empire itself), and Max himself has become a target. There is a definite foreshadowing of what's to come for these citizens later, which gives this book (and indeed, the overall series) a bit of a darker tone. It's tough to just call this just a mystery novel because it's so much more.

Bluntly speaking, I was put off at first by the anti-Semitic musings being interwoven with the mystery part of it all, but eventually I came to see that the two components were necessary to each other. After I figured it out, what happened in the story made much more sense. I have only two criticisms of this book: I just wish the author would have decreased the amount of minutiae to sift through as far as period details,  and that he would have stayed closer to the two interwoven storylines without interjecting what Oskar was going to eat at the coffeehouse -- it's very distracting sometimes. As a mystery, the crimes were baffling enough and the solution was very different to anything from this author so far in the series.

I think that this book will do well for people who've already read the first three books, or for people who really enjoy historical fiction.  If you want a non-historical view of the forces leading up to the extreme anti-Semitism that follows this time period, this would also be a good place to start.  Overall, I liked it and would recommend it, and I would recommend that you begin with the first in the series Mortal Mischief, because the story is actually ongoing and you don't want to miss a thing.

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March 13, 2010
Am about to read this same book via an ARC from amazon.com. My wife has just finished it and loved it. FYI: both she and I, at different times and in different fields, were Fulbright students in Vienna a few years after Soviet occupation ended. I read your criticisms to Mary. You had written: "I just wish the author would have decreased the amount of minutiae to sift through as far as period details, and that he would have stayed closer to the two interwoven storylines without interjecting what Oskar was going to eat at the coffeehouse -- it's very distracting sometimes." Mary would have none of that nit-picking. She had too many happy memories of her hours in such places. You can read a talk she gave on Freud's Vienna at http://www.patrickkillough.com/international-un/vienna.html Thanks for your review: lucid, attractive, meaty. Brings back good memories. Cordially, qigongbear/patrick k
February 11, 2010
Love this series and I'm looking forward to reading this one as soon as possible. Nice review.
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review by . March 18, 2010
 It is Vienna, in 1903. Franz Josef rules his Austro-Hungarian empire. Mayor Karl Lueger took office in 1897 and will hold it until 1910. For Jews there are worse places to be on this earth, notably Russian Czarist Ukraine beyond Franz Josef's north eastern border. Cossacks, pogroms, blood libels and more send suddenly destitute Jewish refugees with no German language skills fleeing for Vienna.      Mayor Lueger was rhetorically anti-Semitic but did nothing major against …
review by . June 08, 2010
... not very well written in comparison with the three previous Liebermann/Reinhardt crime novels. Tallis's choppy chapters and gimlet false clues seem more formulaic. I had the culprit spotted by page 230 out of 374, especially since the most obvious suspects were 'exempt' for obvious reasons. The diminished role of the detective Oskar Reinhardt, in favor of focusing on his music-mate psychologist Max Liebermann, painfully reduces the 'human sympathy' quotient of the novel. The exotic Viennese …
review by . April 26, 2010
When an anti-Semitic monk is beheaded outside his own church one cold night in 1903 Vienna, Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt calls in his young psychoanalyst friend, Dr. Max Liebermann, for some insight into the mind of the killer.    Using his natural powers of observation as well as his Freudian education, Liebermann posits a number of ideas before going off to his hospital job where he will soon be in deep trouble for barring a priest from giving the last rites to a delusional dying …
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Nancy Oakes ()
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Hi! I'm a very avid reader and book collector and I love to cook. Aside from my family, reading and cooking are my two passions in life. I'm here on Lunch.com because I am looking for people with similar … more
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About this book


The fifth Max Liebermann mystery (following Fatal Lies, 2009) finds the psychiatrist once again wrapped up in a police investigation. This time headless bodies start appearing in front of statues all across Vienna. Tallis continues to evoke the sights, sounds, food, and culture of turn-of the-century Vienna; but this time anti-Semitism is a dark whisper in the background, and Liebermann, a non-observant Jew, finds himself worried for his career. The historical details of police work and forensic investigation again are a strong point, and with this book’s inclusion of a trip to Prague, readers are introduced to another fascinating city. Liebermann’s trip is inspired by a desire to understand more about his past and culture, and the resulting backstory will please series fans interested in knowing more about this appealing protagonist. A solid entry in an excellent historical mystery series. --Jessica Moyer
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ISBN-10: 0812980999
ISBN-13: 978-0812980998
Author: Frank Tallis
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
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"Darkness over Vienna"
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