Book Quote:

” ‘Psychiatrists,’ said Rheinhardt, shaking his head, ‘At what point do you balk at the study of perversity and madness? Do you never think that some things are so dreadful, so appalling, that they should simply be left alone?’

‘It is always better to understand than not.’ ”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky  (APR 17, 2011)

Vienna Twilight, the fifth installment in Frank Tallis’s superb mystery series, focuses on a serial killer obsessed with death; a degenerate artist, Herr Ludo Rainmayr, who paints emaciated young girls in the nude; and an agitated mental patient named Norbert Erstweiler. Dr. Max Liebermann is a psychiatrist and disciple of Sigmund Freud. He also unofficially assists his close friend, Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt. Max and Oskar attend concerts, chat over meals, make music (Max plays the piano and Oskar sings in a rich baritone), drink brandy, smoke cigars, and track down felons. Max’s knowledge of abnormal psychology helps him understand the subconscious forces that drive people to commit unspeakable acts.

Liebermann is currently treating Herr Erstweiler, a gentleman in his early thirties whose symptoms include insomnia, anxiety, loss of appetite, and a belief that he is being stalked by his doppelgänger. In addition, with the help of medical student and blood expert Amelia Lydgate, Oskar and Max try to find a serial killer who dispatches his victims in an unusual manner.

Tallis places us in turn-of-the-century Vienna, a city of high culture and architectural grandeur, with its many theaters, art galleries, concert halls, and opera houses. Furthermore, it was a place where provocative new ideas were challenging tradition in such areas as medicine, aesthetics, and gender roles. Some couturiers dispensed with restrictive corsets and designed “loose-fitting reform dresses” for ladies; this symbolized a movement to liberate women from the constraints that held them back. This great metropolis had a dark side, as well. Although the upper classes enjoyed lives of leisure, the less fortunate barely subsisted from day to day. In decadent Vienna (where syphilis was a “national disease”), moral boundaries were routinely pushed to their limits.

The characterizations, dialogue, and forensic details are all first rate and, along with his serious themes, Tallis includes welcome passages of wit and humor. Max, as usual, is cerebral, detached, and insightful; Oskar is efficient, principled, and overly fond of rich pastries; and Amelia talks her way into the autopsy suite, where she bonds with the eccentric pathologist, Professor Mathias. Tallis creates a troubling picture of a sick society whose members are “preoccupied with sex and death.” As Liebermann says, foreshadowing Austria’s bleak future, “What was wrong with the German soul? Why were love and death so intermingled in the German imagination?” Vienna Twilight has graphically erotic and violent scenes, and is one of Tallis’s most explicit novels to date. At the same time, it is a cleverly plotted, elegantly written, suspenseful, literate, and thoroughly absorbing.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 20 readers
PUBLISHER: Random House Trade Paperbacks (April 12, 2011)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:


The Liebermann Papers:

Writing as F. R. Tallis


April 17, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Sleuths Series, World Lit

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