Death And The Maiden: (Liebermann Papers 6) Paperback – 1 Sep 2011
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"This sixth Viennese mystery to feature the sleuthing double-act of detective Oskar Rheinhardt and psychoanalyst Max Liebermann should satisfy Frank Tallis's old admirers and seduce new ones" (The Independent)
"A serious, well-informed and interesting novel" (Literary Review)
"With plenty of entertaining, intelligent dialogue and two subplots... this novel convinces with every word" (HNR Reviews)
"Costume drama at its best. The ethos of turn-of-the-century Vienna...is very seductive. Tallis has done his research to good effect, and it seems that the only really fictional element in the whole novel is the crime itself. The elegance of the highbrow conversations between the main characters is winning...All this makes for pleasant reading, while the descriptions of the elaborate good manners and old-fashioned moral code are soothing. And yet there is an edge to what might otherwise be cloying...luxuriously enjoyable" (TLS)
"Tallis's mysteries seduce a legion of fans with well-crafted intrigues and sumptuous atmospheres. This latest adds to its rich mix a terrific cameo from the tyrant of the opera: Gustav Mahler" (i, Independent)
6th in the critically acclaimed series from one of Britain's best historical crime writersSee all Product description
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Again like previously, the cultural, intellectual and culinary qualities of that early metropolis are skillfully woven in to the crime story, mixing in real historical figures seamlessly into the fictional story. Tallis is known to perform quite in-depth research for his books and this one does not disappoint in this regard, either. Being a psychologist by training himself, he does an especially good job of vivdly painting the early developments in the field of psychoanalysis, centred around Freud and his coterie (where Max Liebermann is included for the purpose of the book).
The author is also very skillful in arousing quite a hunger in the reader - his descriptions of the culinary delights of the Viennese quisine will probably remain unsurpassed (I can also highly remain the cuisine, every bit as good as described).
As for the story, I have to say (having read the previous five books in close succession) that the year or so break from Deadly Communion was useful - if you read them all in a short time, some elements become a bit repetitive. With breaks inbetween one rediscovers the pleasure of an interesting crime story, embedded in that splendid description of the environment that Tallis so excells at. Contrary to Deadly Communion you will not get the villain's view presented in parallel to the investigation. As a 'new' element, Tallis allows some very important personalities of the time to assume more significant roles in his book (previously this was the case only with Freud), though.
Readers who have been following the series will also be interested in the developments of Liebermann's romantic life, with some unexpected developments.
The only reason for the lacking fifth star is that the author sticks to the established script too closely - after the third book, where the teaming of the lead characters was more than solidly established, one would hope for some more variations on the theme. As said earlier, this will be less of a problem to readers starting here, or not having read the previous installments too recently.
Overall the book is likely to appeal both to people who have read all the previous ones by Tallis but can also easily be enjoyed as a stand alone piece, if one is unaware of the rest, or simply interested in a bit of quality historical crime fiction.
The only problem with this book is that Tallis sticks to the same formula of writing and presents the characters and their background in the same fashion, but overall, this is a good read for a rainy day. You will meet or enjoy Karl Lueger, Mahler, Viennese opera divas, villains along the Danube,tasty Apfelstrudels, dark alleys, musicians, Schubert, walks through the Central Cemetery, famous cafes, Freud, gypsy tales-in short a Viennese melange. Enjoy it !
1903 Vienna is a city of great learning, enlightenment, technological advancements, beauty, art and culture. It is also a city whose subtext of politics, antisemitism and peril grows with each day. Diva Ida Rosenkranz of the Vienna Opera is dead. Although her doctor proclaims it suicide due to an overdose of laudanum, DI Rheinhardt differs and proclaims it a murder. The investigation is complicated by politics. Gustav Mahler is the Director of the Vienna Opera but someone has been sending critical letters to the paper, trying to get him removed. Can Rheinhardt discover the identity of the letter writer? Liebermann becomes so taken with the life and works of composer David Freimark, he convinces Rheinhardt to have Freimark exhumed. What will they find?
This is a time of an enlightened Vienna where women could study medicine and attend lectures on equality. It is the time of Freud and Mahler; where psychiatry and music play a key role. There is a fascinating listing of technological achievements, and information on pathology, showing advancement in detection methods, as is the profiling by the detective while still at the crime scene and the use of crime scene photos. However, this was also a time when things were changing..."Perhaps bad things could still happen in this beautiful, cultured city." and antisemitism is on the rise.
Being new to the series, I had a hard time figuring out who were the protagonists. It took a long time to realize the relationship between Rheinhardt and Liebermann. They weren't really well introduced to the readers, nor was much backstory provided and their personalities seemed quite flat. However, as the story progressed, I became quite taken with them, both individually and as friends. Three quarters into the book, I was completely enchanted by them and wanting to know, and read, more of them.
There is a very good intermingling of actual historical characters-- Emperor Franz Joseph, Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, and others--into the plot enhances the story's veracity and strengthens the sense of time and place. There are wonderful scenes of Liebermann and Freud "...Freud found sex in the most unlikely places." and his night at the opera with Arianne Amsel; a woman he is courting, as well as scenes of Rheinhardt meeting Emperor Franz Joseph and the witch.
The author's descriptions are incredibly lush, both placing us within the scene and, at times, striking our emotions. While music is a central theme of the story, He also uses music to create images. There are passages that make you stop and consider..."the age of one hundred. Who was ever ready to die? There would always be one more book to read, one more person to see, one more hour or fleeting yet indispensable minute to spend." One of my favorite passages, however, is after Rheinhardt reads a bedtime story to his daughter..."What are fairy tales? ... Fairy tales were educational. Set in distant lands and among peoples comfortably removed from everyday life, fairy tales introduced children to the idea of badness existing in the world. They helped prepare children for the harsh reality of human iniquity."
The plot started out just a bit of a slog, with a feeling of being uncertain as to where it was going or why it was interesting. That feeling disappeared as the story progressed, to the point where it is hard to stop reading. As the story proceeds, the plot becomes more complex, even introducing a second and third mystery. The trail of the original murder becomes more complicated and the stakes higher. The end was completely realistic and very well done. There is even an excellent portent--something I usually abhor--about the future which left me eagerly anticipating the next book.
"Death and the Maiden" was a very good read. Not only do I want to read future books in the series, but I want to go back and start from the beginning.
DEATH AND THE MAIDEN (Hist/Pol Proc-DI Oskar Rheinhardt/Dr. Max Liebermann-Vienna-1903/Gaslight) - VG
Tallis, Frank - 6th in series
Random House, 2012
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