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A Death in Vienna: A Max Liebermann Mystery Paperback – May 8, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British author Tallis (Love Sick) sets his intelligent murder mystery in the stormy, atmospheric Austrian capital at the turn of the 20th century. Psychoanalyst Max Lieberman, a contemporary of Freud's, takes time out of his busy schedule treating hysterics to help his friend Det. Oskar Rheinhardt solve the perplexing case of a beautiful medium found dead in a locked room on the day of her weekly séance. She's left a suicide note and died of a gunshot to the heart, but there's no weapon or bullet in her body. Rheinhardt is certain she's been murdered, and as he interviews each of her clients, he uncovers a number of potential suspects with motive enough for murder—but without the know-how to accomplish this impossible deed. Midway through the investigation, one of the medium's clients is bludgeoned to death in his sleep—also inside a locked room. Despite Rheinhardt's superior sleuthing and Lieberman's keen observational and analytical abilities, the murderer and the key to his modus operandi elude them until help comes from an unlikely source. Tallis convincingly animates Lieberman and Rheinhardt in a picturesque Vienna roiling with cultural and intellectual change. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Too many characters crowd this otherwise clever whodunit set in turn-of-the-century Vienna. The circumstances of medium Charlotte Lowenstein's murder befuddle Detective Oskar Rheinhardt from the start: her body is found in a room locked from the inside. She has been shot, but there's evidence of neither a bullet nor a gun. Rheinhardt decides to consult his longtime friend, psychoanalyst Max Liebermann. Although all signs point to a supernatural killer, Liebermann, who puts a premium on hypnosis, dreams, and accidental utterances (Freudian slips), isn't so sure. He interviews members of Fraulein Lowenstein's seance circle, some of whom seemed more drawn to her beauty than her credentials in the occult. Among them: a nervous banker, a neurotic locksmith, an unkempt count, and a lustful stage magician who fled the city shortly after the crime. Tallis is a clinical psychologist and an expert on obsessive behavior, and his third novel is worth reading, not so much for the story as for the atmospheric renderings of the Viennese cafe scene (including many mouth-watering mentions of pastry) and for cameo appearances by Mahler and Freud. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Max Liebermann (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812977637
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812977639
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #910,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Frank Tallis is a consultant clinical psychologist at the Charter Nightingale Hospital in London. He has also written How to Stop Worrying (1990) and is a trustee of Obsessive Action, a charity which helps sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and their families.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This murder mystery is as charming as Vienna itself. Like the city's famed waltz, Frank Tallis moves his book, "A Death in Vienna," along at the perfect tempo. The year is 1902, and Vienna is at its height of social and scientific development. Tallis uses all the history and social background of the city to infuse his story and characters with a historical interest that at times makes the central murder almost secondary to the setting. Almost...for the twists and turns and inscrutable details of the murder are never too far from our minds, whether we are sitting with the characters in a Viennese cafe enjoying its famous coffees and pastries or sitting in a darkened room for a seance with the dead medium.

Ultimately, the story rests on not only this fantastic setting, but also all of the strong characters that Tallis has created here: the dead medium, Fraulein Lowenstein; the detective, Oskar Rheinhardt; the psychologist, Max Liebermann, follower of none other than Sigmund Freud, who makes his appearance here too, albeit briefly. This story captures the tug of war between criminology and psychology, between the paranormal and the scientific, between the old and the forces of change that have engulfed the city during this time frame. They are all played out through the mysterious circumstances of Lowenstein's death and the subsequent investigation by Rheinhardt, aided by his good friend Herr Doctor Liebermann.

The beautiful Lowenstein's prime suspects are her seance circle, an unusual group of people who reflect a wide range of personalities and quirks. Through Tallis's story, we see a complete society of Vienna, the triumphs of the new century and the social problems yet to be resolved.
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Format: Paperback
In general, I greatly enjoyed this book, both as a character study and as a portrait of a fascinating time and place. The author knows turn-of-the-(20th)-century Vienna well, both the social and political issues that people were dealing with and the nitty-gritty details of daily life, but he uses his knowledge to create a believable setting for the story rather than becoming pedantic. His understanding of the cross-currents in the nascent psychoanalytic movement gives the story depth. Dr. Max Liebermann is an intriguing character because he embodies many of the contradictions of that time and place: he's a rebel in his profession, and his artistic tastes run to the avant-garde; but he's also a member of a prosperous Jewish family and community to whom he's strongly loyal. The detective Rheinhardt is less complicated, but his friendship with Dr. Liebermann is based on a shared love of music as well as their fascination with the human mind, so it rang true to me. I felt that the mystery itself wasn't all that strong: any reader who's familiar with the genre could figure out the disappearing bullet and the locked room rather easily, although the author did a good job of dropping hints and red herrings to keep you guessing who done it. I quibbled with some of the psychoanalytic material, e.g., multiple personalities usually develop from a long history of abuse, not ... well, the way it happens here. And I concur with other readers that the author's use of short chapters became confusing -- I disagree that there are "too many characters," but the choppy narrative made it hard to remember what X was doing the last time we met him. All in all, however, it's a good story, well written, and I'm hooked enough now to read the next novel in the series.
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Format: Hardcover
Frank Tallis's "A Death in Vienna" features psychiatrist Max Liebermann, who is a disciple of Sigmund Freud. Vienna is a cosmopolitan capital that delights the senses with its beautiful music, architectural wonders, scenic vistas, and culinary delights. It is also the birthplace of psychoanalysis, of which Max is an expert practitioner, much to the disdain of his superior, Professor Wolfgang Gruner. Gruner prefers to treat hysteria with electricity, while Max feels that it is far more productive and humane to to help his patients by exploring their dreams and subconscious memories.

Max's best friend and confidante is Detective Oskar Reinhardt, who often calls on Max for his expert opinion. It seems that Max's superior powers of observation and his expertise in diseases of the mind make him an excellent amateur sleuth. Oskar presents his friend with a enigma involving a beautiful young woman, Charlotte Lowenstein, who is found dead in her sitting room. She was apparently shot, but no bullet or exit wound was found. In addition, suicide can be ruled out, since there there was no murder weapon at hand. To make matters even more bewildering, the sitting room door was locked from the inside and no one could have climbed out of the window. Since Charlotte was a medium who frequently conducted seances, some people suspect that a supernatural force killed her. However, Max scoffs at this idea and he sets out to help his friend solve the crime. In addition, Max is preoccupied with treating a patient named Amelia Lydgate, who is suffering from partial paralysis. He uses hypnosis in an attempt to uncover the source of his patient's distress.

Frank Tallis has written an engaging novel that is also a travelogue of Vienna in the late nineteenth century.
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