Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Death in Vienna (trade, $12.95), by Frank Tallis

It was Portland author Phil Margolin who recommended this book. Phil loves to pass on good reads, and he often blurts out a title before he remembers to say hello.

I had seen this come through when it first came out but gave it a pass. I had just read or skimmed two other Freud/Jung-inspired novels that left me blah. Oh, no, not more birth-pangs-of-psychoanalysis b.s., I thought when I saw A Death in Vienna. I should have read it. And I’m glad Phil stopped by.

Vienna. 1902. The murder of a medium (the oo-we-oo kind, not a Ted Turner corporate entity). A Freud disciple, Dr. Max Liebermann, and his friend, Detective Oskar Rheinhardt, attempt to separate the supernatural from the deviously human. Liebermann tosses in a lesson in repressed memories to boot.

Vienna’s old world charm is on the verge of change, and Tallis does a nicely subtle job of hinting at what is to come with the two world wars on its horizon. He also presents an intriguing female character who, against popular practice, is interested in a scientific education. When a not-so-happy medium is dispatched by a bullet that cannot be found, in a locked room whose only key is on the inside, with a statue of the Egyptian god Seth enclosed in a locked box, with the key, naturally, found on the inside, the reader should be rubbing his or her hands with glee at these intimations of a good old-fashioned mystery. I have to say I was not disappointed.


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