A Death in Viennaby Frank Tallis
“[An] elegant historical mystery . . . stylishly presented and intelligently resolved.” —New York Times Book Review
In Vienna at the turn of the twentieth century, Max Liebermann is at the forefront of psychoanalysis, practicing the controversial new science with all the skill of a master detective. Every dream, inflection, or slip of tongue in his “hysterical” patients has meaning and reveals some hidden truth. When a mysterious and beautiful medium dies under extraordinary circumstances, Max’s good friend, Detective Oskar Rheinhardt, calls for his expert assistance. The medium’s body has been found in a room that can only be locked from the inside. Her body has been shot, but there’s no gun and absolutely no trace of a bullet. All signs point to a supernatural killer, but Liebermann the scientist is not so easily convinced. Set in the Vienna of Freud, Klimt, and Mahler, a time of unprecedented activity in the worlds of philosophy, science, and art, A Death in Vienna is an elegantly written novel, taut with suspense and rich in historical details.
Frank Tallis on fin-de-siécle Vienna:
It was a time of remarkable advances in the worlds of philosophy, science, and the arts. The coffeehouses became lively debating societies, in which the political, social, and cultural agenda of the twentieth century was set. Sigmund Freud, Arnold Schoenberg, Arthur Schnitzler, Gustav Klimt, Theodor Herzl, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Gustav Mahler were all neighbors; however, at the same time, Vienna was playing host to a quite different set of thinkers: German mystics, social Darwinists, and race theorists whose ideas would eventually be consolidated under the banner of Hitler’s National Socialism. Thus, it was a place of great excitement and terrible danger.
“A mouthwatering view of Viennese café society . . . Well and forcefully written.” —Philip Oaks, The Literary Review
“As much cultural chronicle as yarn, peppered with allusions to the criminological and psychiatric experts of the day and studded with references to the capital and customs of the Hapsburg empire.” —The Guardian
“Frank Tallis . . . knows what he’s writing about in this excellent mystery. . . . Tallis’s writing and feel for the period are top class.” —The Times (London)
“An engrossing portrait of a legendary period as well as a brain teaser of startling perplexity . . . In Tallis’s sure hands, the story evolves with grace and excitement. . . . A perfect combination of the hysterical past and the cooler—but probably more dangerous—present.” —Chicago Tribune
“[A Death in Vienna is] a winner for its smart and flavorsome fin-de-siecle portrait of the seat of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and for introducing Max Liebermann, a young physician who is feverish with the possibilities of the new science of psychoanalysis.” —Washington Post
Liebermann crouched beside the open door and examined the lock. It was still working, and he turned the key a few times to test it. The lock worked perfectly. Liebermann allowed the thick metal bolt to slide out of its casing and press against his palm.
“So . . .” he said, thinking out loud. “What are we supposed to believe? That Fräulein Löwenstein was expecting some form of supernatural retribution? She composed her note and, recognizing that there would be no escape, lay back on the chaise longue where she patiently awaited her transport to hell. Like Faust, Fräulein Löwenstein had benefited from forbidden knowledge, the price of which was eternal damnation?”
It was clear from Liebermann’s tone that he found the idea entirely ridiculous.
“Yes,” said Rheinhardt. “It is absurd—but unfortunately there are no alternative explanations.”
Liebermann walked over to the shelves and picked up the ceramic hand, showing palpable disdain.
“Do you have any suspects?”
Rheinhardt threw his arms up in the air and looked despairingly around him.
“Suspects? Do impossible murders have suspects? To be honest, Max, I haven’t really given the matter of suspects much consideration.”