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by Frank Tallis
Random House, February 2010
377 pages
ISBN: 0812980999

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Max Lieberman is a psychoanalyst, not entirely sure he buys everything that Dr. Freud is selling, but always interested in learning more about the human mind and how it works. He is also glad to help Inspector Reinhardt, given the opportunity, with some of his criminal investigations.

Reinhardt calls on Max when a priest is discovered at the bottom of a plague pillar, decapitated in a manner that would indicate superhuman strength. The pillar is near a school and there is lots of mud around the priest. How much of this is important? Does it matter than Brother Stanislav is considered a saint by most people, and a fomenter of hatred against the Jews by others?

Then another priest is killed, also decapitated. Then another man is killed, but he doesn't fit the limited pattern - he is a Jew, but one who preys on other Jews. Is that fact important?

Max has his own issues. His father wants him to go into business, take over the family establishment. Max has a patient, a woman, and his relationship with her borders on the inappropriate. His concerns about this relationship, and the dreams that he has, force him to engage in personal psychoanalysis - not a comfortable situation.

As he investigates, he is urged by a rabbi to go to Prague. He is resistant but events conspire against him and he does go to Prague. Here he deals with his past, with some concerns about the case, and with the issues presented by his delicate patient.

VIENNA SECRETS is well worth reading, particularly for readers who enjoy historical fiction connected with psychoanalysis (Caleb Carr?). Liebermann is so very human, his concerns quite timeless. Tallis seems to have done his homework, particularly with regard to the treatment and perception of Jews in Vienna at this time. Those familiar with Jewish folklore (and Talmudic history) will see where at least one plot line is headed, and still Tallis manages to make the plot turn on some surprisingly mundane factors. SECRETS is the fourth in Liebermann series; this reader is seriously considering going back for the first three.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, March 2010

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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