Genre Genre Genre

Heads You Lose

Two beheadings and a smart doctor lie at the heart of Frank Tallis's Vienna Secrets.

Book Cover I suppose it was inevitable that once Caleb Carr (The Alienist) wrote a so-called historical fiction using a real historical figure—in that case, Theodore Roosevelt, from when he was the NYC police commissioner—the reductio ad absurdum would be the employment of a president or royal figure hunting vampires or some such. I suppose if you can suspend belief or are historically ignorant that kind of thing may work for you.

Neither of those will be needed in reading installment number four of Frank Tallis’s Max Liebermann series, Vienna Secrets (Random House). Set in, you guessed it, Vienna in 1903, Dr. Max Leibermann (Tallis’s central character), a devotee of the new science of psychoanalysis, teams up with Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt to investigate two gruesome murders—Piarist monk Brother Stanislav and Burke Faust, an up-and-coming politician city official. This being Vienna, we are treated to a full menu of anti-Semitism, Hassids, Sigmund Freud, and various camp followers, Kabbalahists and Rebbes, and various Jewish myths.

Liebermann and Rheinhardt are also amateur musicians and spend evenings together playing music and trying to solve the crimes at hand. Fin-de-siecle Vienna was a fascinating place, a hot house of modernist art and thinking—as well as a hot bed of various fanaticisms, none more virulent then anti-Semitism. Frank Tallis is a practicing psycho therapist so he does well in weaving in the burgeoning Freudian theory into the narrative, as well as presenting an entirely plausible sense of a great international city at the height of its influence.

Need I say this was great fun to read?
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