If we talked about historical novels like a pâtissier then amongst the rich and deeply satisfying tortes would be the novels by C. J. Sansom, Anne Perry, John Biggins and Frank Tallis. Not only do these authors take the reader into a historical world which is convincingly real, they have the skills to make the reader believe their fiction is actually history.
Darkness Rising is the fourth novel involving the Viennese doctor, psychoanalyst Max Liebermann. It is 1903. Vienna is beginning to promote and support pro-German, anti-Semite views, so when first a monk and then a city councillor, both aggressively anti-Semite, are discovered outside churches, with their heads torn off, the radical Hasidic Jews are suspects. But there are certain strange aspects to the killings which make Detective Inspector Rheindhart ask his friend, Max, for help.
Complexities arise as Max is forced to re-examine his Jewishness, outface racist city councillors, keep his job at the hospital, where prejudiced people want him out, and be a good psychoanalyst. This and the relationships between both major and minor characters, the little episodes where their lives are disclosed, make for compelling reading. Tallis’s Vienna is a character in its own right: tangible, you can see, hear, smell and, of course, taste those delicious Viennese pastries that Tallis’s characters eat with relish. Presented through the music, buildings, and even the lectures of Freud, intelligently discussed by Max, Tallis’s Vienna exists. This writer not only writes well, he researches thoroughly.
Readers who love to be transported in time to another period and place will want to read all four novels. I certainly do.