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Plunk a pair of crime-solvers down in a turn of the century European capital and you're practically begging for comparisons to Holmes and Watson. But their shared love of music and practicing together makes the psychiatrist, Max Liebermann, and his police inspector friend, Oskar Rheinhardt, just as reminiscent of Aubrey and Maturin. Like Patrick O'Brian, author Frank Tallis demonstrates a thorough knowledge of the Viennese milieu that makes the novels as much of an education as an entertainment. In particular, he captures the rising tide of anti-Semitism that his characters must contend against, though they can't know, as we do, where it is leading.

This fourth installment in the series features a series of grotesque beheadings wherein the corpses are deposited near memorials to past plagues. It is hard to imagine that any but the most ignorant reader will not recognize that the golem is being invoked, even though it takes Max half the novel to figure it out. Similarly, it takes him chapters to diagnose a seemingly obvious psychiatric conundrum that takes up one sub-plot.

But perhaps the mysteries aren't the point here so much as the history and the descriptions of and musing upon Vienna, Judaism, European classical music, Freud and Freudianism and so forth. Mr. Tallis certainly makes all of the fascinating.

A confession though, Freudianism is so thoroughly discredited at this point that it's awfully hard to take it as seriously as the author does and impossible to see it as an especially useful criminal investigative tool. Along the same lines, one of the major plots of the book concerns Max's refusal to allow a priest to give the last rites to a patient because knowledge of his impending death might make his last hours psychologically uncomfortable. We are apparently supposed to sympathize with Max when this nearly leads to the loss of his position on the hospital staff. Instead it is simply appalling. The elevation of Max's own rationalist/materialist dogma over the religious beliefs of a patient and his family comes off as the worst sort of arrogance. It hardly justifies the anti-Jewish machinations it unleashes, but does make the outrage he provokes understandable.


Grade: (A-)


See also:

Frank Tallis Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Frank Tallis
    -GOOGLE BOOKS: by Frank Tallis
    -AUTHOR PAGE: Frank Tallis (Random House)
    -ESSAY: Arabian nights: As a culture we are obsessed with love, but it is not the western variety we might like to believe. This Valentine's Day, we would do well to remember that Islam's most successful export is not fundamentalism but romance. (Frank Tallis, 09 February 2004, New Statesman)
    -ESSAY: My Vienna (Frank Tallis , National Geographic)
    -ESSAY: Original Sin: On the Importance of Creative Killing (Frank Tallis, Crime Time)
    -REVIEW: of THE DEVIL'S COMPANY By David Liss (Frank Tallis, Washington Post)
-PROFILE: Murder most Freudian: We meet psychologist-turned-thriller-writer Frank Tallis, whose Austrian Jewish hero is to be seen on TV (Jenni Frazer, December 30, 2008, Jewish Chronicle)
    -INTERVIEW: Powell’s Q&A: Frank Tallis (Frank Tallis, May 18, 2009,
    -PROFILE: Official: love can damage your health (Jamie Doward, 6 February 2005, The Observer)
    -ARTICLE: ORF and BBC may cooperate on 'The Liebermann Papers' (Austria Times, 2/10/10)
    -ESSAY: Idol Worship: Does the world need another golem novel? (Adam Kirsch, Aug. 6, 2002, Slate)
    -REVIEW: of Darkness Rising by Frank Tallis (Joan Smith, Times of London)
    -REVIEW: of Darkness Rising (Bartry Forshaw, Independent)
    -REVIEW: of Vienna Secrets (JAY TRACHTENBERG, Austin Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of Vienna Secrets (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review
    -REVIEW: of Vienna Secrets (P.J. Coldren, Reviewing the Evidence)
    -REVIEW: of Vienna Secrets (Robert Birnbaum, The Morning News)
    -REVIEW: of Vienna Secrets (Tony Lewis, Providence Journal)
    -REVIEW: of Vienna Secrets (Nancy O 2010 Year in Books)
    -REVIEW: of Vienna Secrets (Bonnie Brody, Mostly Fiction)
    -REVIEW: of Killing Time by Frank Tallis (Georges T. Dodds, SF Site)
    -REVIEW: of Mortal Mischief by Frank Tallis (Daniel Pick, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Mortal Mischief (Robert Colville, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of A Death in Vienna by Frank Tallis (Robert Lipez, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of A Death in Vienna (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of A Death in Vienna (adam B. Vary, Entertainment Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of A Death in Vienna (Mary-Liz Shaw, Journal Sentinel)
    -REVIEW: of Vienna Blood : Volume Two of the Liebermann Papers by Frank Tallis (Patrick Anderson, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Vienna Blood (Anna Mundow, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW: of Vienna Blood (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Vienna Blood (Will Boisver, Entertainment Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Fatal Lies by Frank Tallis (Patrick Anderson, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Fatal Lies (Laura Root, Euro Crime)
    -REVIEW: of Fatal Lies (Joan Smith, Times of London)
    -REVIEW: of Fatal Lies (Marcel Berlins, Times of London)
    -REVIEW: of Fatal Lies (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Deadly Communion by Frank Tallis (Barry Forshaw, Independent)
    -REVIEW: of Deadly Communion (Laura Wilson, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Deadly Communion (Jenni Frazer, Jewish Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: Of Mortal Secrets: Freud, Vienna, and the Discovery of the Modern Mind, Frank Tallis (Ella Nixon, The Critic)

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