Mystery Books for Sale

[ Home ]
[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]


by Frank Tallis
Century, May 2006
480 pages
ISBN: 1844136043

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In VIENNA BLOOD, Frank Tallis continues The Liebermann Papers: the diaries of his fictional turn-of-the-century Viennese crime-solver, Dr Max Liebermann. Tallis's hero might be an amateur sleuth, but he is a professional physician and a member of the first generation of psychoanalysts. Once again, Liebermann helps his detective friend Oskar Rheinhardt with a case, and gets in way over his head.

Rheinhardt is investigating a series of increasingly brutal and bizarre murders, which appear to have been committed with a sabre, and by someone with more than ordinary knowledge of human anatomy. A survey of the suspects reveals a cross-section of Viennese society linked by connections with the proto-Fascist 'scholar' Guido List -- who, incidentally, was real.

Meanwhile, Liebermann is engaged to an attractive, demure young socialite, Clara Weiss, who is eager to become the perfect doctor's wife. He looks forward to the marriage, in a rational, quiet way, yet finds himself increasingly interested in Amelia Lydgate, an Englishwoman struggling against the institutionalised misogyny of Vienna's medical academy. It's best to do what one is expected -- the sensible thing -- and not to rock the boat. Or is it?

Tallis has a wonderfully playful writing style. A recurring motif in VIENNA BLOOD is the idea of playing. When the tale begins, Liebermann appears to be fighting for his life, with archaic weaponry, and before it ends he finds he must defend himself in earnest.

Other sorts of players in Viennese's arts-soaked culture -- writers, musicians, and composers -- pursue their arts and artifices with deadly seriousness, but Liebermann himself has his own art or game to deploy in his mission for the truth: psychoanalysis. His former tutor Sigmund Freud, perhaps the most serious illusionist of them all, makes a few wry cameo appearances.

The first instalment of the Liebermann papers, MORTAL MISCHIEF, was shortlisted for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award, and the second also merits accolades. Tallis's vivid picaresque of 1902 Vienna makes the book more than merely a page-turner. Liebermann guides the reader on a tour of his lost community's most fascinating secrets, from the Emperor's favourite anaconda to the sizeable population of 'sewer people', to List's acolytes, who range from the eccentric to the terrifying.

The young Jewish hero's innocence, and that of his society, creates a terrible situational irony. Like Freud, Liebermann is very intelligent, but he walks around in clouds of smoke through which it is impossible to see what's ahead. Forget Dan Brown's cleverness -- Tallis is the thinking reader's mystery-writer.

Reviewed by Rebecca Nesvet, May 2006

[ Top ]



Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]
[ Home ]