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 patient.
Meanwhile an ambitious member of the city's right-wing government looks to give his career a boost by capitalizing on the monk's murder to stir up popular anti-Semitism, a scheme which is aided by Liebermann's refusal to apologize for acting in what he thought was his patient's best interest.
As trouble foments and further headless bodies disturb the peace of Vienna streets, Liebermann and Rheinhardt discuss progress over exquisite Viennese pastries and mull ideas after rejuvenating music sessions, Liebermann on the piano and Reinhardt singing.
Pre-fascist anti-Semitism, Freudian dream theory and analysis, architecture, food, music, and even feminism give Tallis' most ambitious thriller (after Fatal Lies) a rich historical texture. Freud makes several appearances, surprising Liebermann with his interest in Jewish kabalistic literature, given his rather hostile views toward religion.
There are a couple of elements that don't ring true. It's hard to believe a Jewish doctor would bar a priest from a Catholic's bedside, and it also seems unlikely that even a secular Jew like Liebermann would have no knowledge of Hassidic lore. And despite the headless corpses the story is not as exciting as in previous books. Still, it's an absorbing portrait of old Vienna and a beautifully written tale.
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 … more
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 … more
... 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 … more
I love to read, always have, and have been writing reviews for more years than I care to say. Early on, i realized there are more books than there is time to read, so I read only books I like and mostly … more
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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