Saturday, May 2, 2009
A Death in Vienna - Frank Tallis
About once a month, I crave a good mystery. I have received numerous suggestions over the years and have a number of go-to authors. I discovered the Max Liebermann series, about a psychoanalytic detective, from a Powells Book review. A Death in Vienna, the first book in the series, takes place in Vienna in 1902. A famous medium has just been found shot dead. She is found in a room locked from the inside with no murder weapon. Detective Oskar Rheinhardt leads the investigation, with a little help from Freudian psychologist, Max Liebermann. The mystery involves two disctinct story lines. The first is the investigation iteself as Rheinhardt and Liebermann interview the members of the victim's psychic circle, holding seances to dispel the theory of a supernatural killer. The second story involves Liebermann's work using psychoanalysis on a female patient diagnosed with hysteria, as he battles his colleagues in the electroshock therapy camp. Along the way, we are also introduced to Liebermann's family, and his uncertain relationship with his new fiance, Clara. Even Freud himself makes an appearance. The mystery is filled with colorful characters, deductive reasoning, and psychological intrigue. Tallis's ability to incoporate psychological investigative techniques, while discussing the political and social arguments for and against such techniques, held together well and made for a fabulously gripping mystery.