Thursday, 22 September 2011

HISTORICAL CRIME FICTION REVIEW: Max Liebermann 6: Death and the Maiden - Frank Tallis

Release Date: 22/09/11


Vienna 1903. An operatic diva, Ida Rosenkrantz, is found dead in her luxurious villa. It appears that she has taken an overdose of morphine, but a broken rib, discovered during autopsy, suggests other and more sinister possibilities. Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt seeks the assistance of his young friend, the psychoanalyst Dr. Max Liebermann, and they begin their inquiries at Vienna’s majestic opera house, where its director, Gustav Mahler, is struggling to maintain a pure artistic vision while threatened on all sides by pompous bureaucrats, vainglorious singers, and a hostile press. When the demagogue Mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger, becomes the prime suspect - with an election only months away - the Rosenkrantz case becomes politically explosive.

The trail leads Rheinhardt and Liebermann, via a social climbing professor of psychiatry, to the Hofburg palace and the mysterious Lord Marshal’s office – a shadowy bureau that deals ruthlessly with enemies of the ageing Emperor Franz Josef. As the investigation proceeds, the investigators are placed in great personal danger, as corruption is exposed at the very highest levels. Meanwhile, Liebermann pursues two private obsessions: a coded message in a piece of piano music, and the alluring Englishwoman, Miss Amelia Lydgate. Romance and high drama coincide as the Habsburg Empire teeters on the edge of scandal and ruin.


Frank has been one of those authors that tends to throw a curve ball at me, as he delivers a novel that is unexpected, has great characters and a suitable enough twist to keep you guessing throughout. It has decent pace, top notch prose and of course an author who knows how to fool the reader with sleight of hand tricks from start to finish revealing the solution in such a way that you feel almost like an idiot for having missed some of the elements.

As usual with the authors style the title is sold on the characters and with the success of Max and the inclusion of some well-known Viennese real life inhabitants it creates a story that is believable as well as full of promise. Cracking stuff.

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