A Death in Vienna

Written by Frank Tallis
Review by Tess Allegra


In Sigmund Freud’s Vienna, Dr. Max Lieberman, a Freudian acolyte, specializes in psychosomatic illnesses classified as “hysteria,” usually treated with barbaric electrotherapy. Disapproving of this technique, Max prefers the investigative/talk method to discover the cause of the aliment rather than frightening it into submission. He becomes especially intrigued by the case of Amelia Lydgate, an otherwise normal young woman whose on-and-off paralysis changes into violent outbreaks.

Max’s analytical skills are soon called upon when he learns from his best friend, Detective Oskar Rheinhardt, of a very mysterious murder. “Medium” Lottie Lowenstein is found dead in a locked parlor, obviously shot, with no trace of a bullet or gun. Her séance clients insist it’s supernatural due to her note acknowledging punishment for having “forbidden knowledge.” As Max and Oskar begin digging among a surfeit of suspects, the murderer kills again before seeking to destroy Max, whom he views as his mortal enemy. Frank Tallis’s first mystery is an elegant tangle of events that transports the reader into the mysterious and delicious ambiance of early 20th century Vienna, where the smell of evil blends in with the fragrance of coffee and pastries.