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Vienna Blood: A Novelby Frank Tallis
Synopses & Reviews
The second in the Dr. Max Liebermann series, literature’s first psychoanalytic detective.
In the grip of a Siberian winter in 1902, a serial killer in Vienna embarks upon a bizarre campaign of murder. Vicious mutilation, a penchant for arcane symbols, and a seemingly random choice of victim are his most distinctive peculiarities. Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt summons a young disciple of Freud — his friend, Dr. Max Liebermann — to assist him with the case. The investigation draws them into the sphere of Vienna's secret societies — a murky underworld of German literary scholars, race theorists, and scientists inspired by the new evolutionary theories coming out of England. At first, the killer's mind seems impenetrable — his behaviour and cryptic clues impervious to psychoanalytic interpretation; however, gradually, it becomes apparent that an extraordinary and shocking rationale underlies his actions...
Against this backdrop of mystery and terror, Liebermann struggles with his own demons. The treatment of a patient suffering from paranoia erotica (a delusion of love) and his own fascination with the enigmatic Englishwoman Amelia Lydgate raises doubts concerning the propriety of his imminent marriage. To resolve the dilemma, he must entertain the unthinkable — risking opprobrium and accusations of cowardice.
"British clinical psychologist Tallis follows his superior debut, A Death in Vienna (2007), with this gripping sequel. Viennese Det. Insp. Oskar Rheinhardt, already faced with finding the person who butchered the emperor's favorite anaconda, comes under even more pressure from his superiors when several murders are committed in quick succession. The inspector enlists the assistance of insightful Freud disciple Max Liebermann, who quickly deduces that the killer is choosing his victims to correspond with the plot of Mozart's The Magic Flute. The book's strength lies in the relationship and interplay between the two detectives, whose friendship, which includes a shared love of music, may remind some of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey and Maturin. The clever plotting and quality writing elevate this above most other historicals, even if the solution to the crimes comes as no great surprise." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"London clinical psychologist Frank Tallis' 'Vienna Blood' is one of the finest literary thrillers I've ever read. It's a dazzling tour de force, set in Vienna in 1902, that combines the search for a serial killer with a vibrant portrait of fin-de-siecle Viennese social and cultural life and a disturbing look at the rise of the twisted German nationalism that would soon emerge as Nazism. The novel... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) is a bit long, but that's because Tallis' exceptional descriptive powers lead to elegant word-portraits of everything from architecture to an autopsy to a duel to the mouth-watering Viennese pastries that the characters frequently devour. Impatient readers need not apply, but for everyone else this is the perfect book to curl up with by the fire on a winter evening. We start with two friends, young psychologist Dr. Max Liebermann and Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt. Their friendship encompasses both music — some evenings they meet, and the detective sings while the psychologist plays the piano — and crime, as Liebermann advises the detective on murder cases. There are echoes of Holmes and Watson here, with the psychologist as the brilliant analyst and the detective as the decent, stolid friend. At the start of the novel, a madam and three prostitutes are butchered, and the two men join forces once more, as they did in Tallis' previous, highly praised 'A Death in Vienna.' More murders and mutilations follow. In his private life, Liebermann is engaged to the sweet and well-to-do Clara, but he's coming to realize that she lacks the intellectual qualities he wants in a wife. His plight worsens as he contemplates an English medical student, Amelia Lydgate, who is as smart as she is gorgeous. Amelia, for her part, is bedeviled by a professor who believes women should not be permitted to study medicine at the University of Vienna. This bigot proves to be a member of Primal Fire, a secret society that preaches German nationalism and dreams of a 'Teutonic Messiah,' who will rid Germany of Jews, blacks, Freemasons and other supposed undesirables. These Nazis-to-be idolize a journalist called Guido von List, who writes novels about the invincible leader who will restore the glorious German past. List is, in fact, a historical figure whose writings were well known to Adolf Hitler. We are in the Vienna of Sigmund Freud (who makes a cameo appearance), the artist Gustav Klimt and the composer Gustav Mahler — all scorned by the German nationalists as Jews and degenerates. One of the Germans describes attending one of Freud's lectures and being filled with horror at the idea of 'telling one's innermost secrets to a smug, self-satisfied Jew who was preoccupied with filth.' These Germans' hero of heroes is the composer Richard Wagner, and they despise Mozart for having celebrated Freemasonry in 'The Magic Flute,' an opera that provides a blueprint for the series of killings. Music is central to the novel and becomes a form of political expression. (And 'Vienna Blood' is not only an apt title for a serial-killer novel but also the name of a Strauss waltz.) Readers of this, as of many other novels, agonize because we know horrors lie ahead that the various cultured and optimistic characters cannot imagine. When a crude, bloody swastika is found at the scene of one murder, Liebermann does some research and concludes only that the 'broken cross' is 'an Indo-European symbol representing goodness and health.' This novel offers many surprises. Two lovingly described duels may teach you a great deal about that ancient practice. An anti-Semitic artist goes to Vienna's Academy of Fine Arts and is enthralled by Hieronymus Bosch's 'The Last Judgment.' As he studies it in detail, we realize that he is seeing nothing less than a preview of the Holocaust: 'A bare, unadorned building housed the carcasses of destroyed humanity, their barely visible forms hanging on hooks like those of animals in an abattoir.' And yet such horrors may be soon followed by a moment such as this: 'Liebermann scooped the cream off his torte, tilted his fork, and let the silver pearls catch the light. They were perfect spheres of different sizes and flashed like stars.' Tallis has given his novel a wonderful range. It deals with profoundly serious historical and political issues, yet it remains fast-paced and often fun. The book begins with Liebermann attending his fencing class and, logically enough, ends with a sword fight worthy of an Errol Flynn movie. Liebermann's analytical genius often recalls that of Sherlock Holmes, but this is the kind of novel Arthur Conan Doyle might have written if he'd been a far better novelist. The publisher's corporate wisdom has resulted in 'Vienna Blood' being issued as a trade paperback, so it may be harder to find than other, lesser novels, but it's worth the effort. 'Vienna Blood' is the first great thriller of 2008." Reviewed by Patrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"[An] intelligent, challenging, masterfully crafted series....[An] enthralling, unusual, intelligently written literary thriller. A superb book for mystery buffs, history lovers, and connoisseurs of European culture." Booklist (Starred Review)
"[O]ne of the finest literary thrillers I've ever read. It's a dazzling tour de force....Impatient readers need not apply, but for everyone else this is the perfect book to curl up with by the fire on a winter evening....
"[A] fine sequel to A Death in Vienna....The professional rapport and easy friendship of this duo lend a bit of quiet charm to a series that, rather like a Viennese pastry, is stuffed almost to bursting with showy delights." Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
In 1902, a serial killer in Vienna embarks upon a bizarre campaign of murder. Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt summons Dr. Max Liebermann to assist him with the case. The investigation draws them into the sphere of Vienna's secret societies, in this second novel to feature literature's first psychoanalytic detective.
About the Author
Frank Tallis is a writer and practicing clinical psychologist. He has published seven non-fiction works (including Changing Minds: The History of Psychotherapy as an Answer to Human Suffering; and Hidden Minds: A History of the Unconscious). His new novel, Lovesick, is also published by Century.
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