four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
40-May-June-2009
By: 
Frank Tallis
user_rating: 
0

A-Fatal LiesFatal Lies is the fourth entry in Tallis’s Max Liebermann series, which revolves around a Viennese detective and his psychoanalyst sidekick. Tallis, a clinical psychologist, lives in London.

The Story: When you’re an aspiring Sherlock Holmes (or maybe Dr. Watson) in late 19th-century Vienna, what better way to investigate crime than the newly minted methods of a certain Sigmund Freud? That is the premise of this series starring Oskar Rheinhardt, a Viennese police inspector, and Dr. Max Liebermann, who regularly uses his psychoanalytic prowess to figure out whodunnit. In this installment, the pair investigates a murder at St. Florian’s military academy. Meanwhile, Dr. Liebermann must analyze his own heart to decide whether he is more drawn to the beatific English medical student or the bohemian violinist.
Random House 448 pages. $15. ISBN: 0812977777

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"This alone could account for the deeper appeal of the series—the suggestion that during this transitional era, the equilibrium of both state and psyche will keep shifting between cool reason and dark romance. … [W]hile it’s always a delight to visit the ballrooms where Strauss is played and the opera house where Mahler is rehearsing and the coffeehouses where ideas are devoured mit Schlag, this smart series has far more to offer than decorative charm." Marilyn Stasio

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Tallis’s singular achievement is to bring vividly to life many of the glories and dangers of a great city at a crucial moment in its history. … [Tallis] has an exceptional ability to move seamlessly among varied plot elements, characters and emotions." Patrick Anderson

Independent (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Tallis’s fiction is transmuted through his experiences as a clinician. His series [makes] assiduous use of psychology. … Typically, plots revolve around an impossible crime, in the context of some closed community: in Mortal Mischief, a spiritualist circle; in Vienna Blood, a proto-Nazi secret society; in Fatal Lies, a military school." Barry Forshaw

Telegraph (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Don’t read this on an empty stomach. Not, I hasten to add, for reasons of gore, but because of the Viennese cakes. Aficionados of classical music and architecture are also in for a treat: this, after all, is fin-de-siècle Vienna and Tallis has a supreme talent for bringing the city to life." Lucy Davies

Critical Summary

Reviewers found Fatal Lies to be a thoroughly satisfying follow-up to the previous books in Tallis’s series. As usual, they enjoyed Tallis’s work not only for his still-rewarding device of a psychoanalytic amateur detective but also for his meticulously detailed depiction of fin-de-siècle Vienna—which is delicious right down to the pastries. A literary thriller, it contains crime, intellectual and cultural matter, and luminous prose. In fact, the only complaint was that the American edition is only available as a trade paperback, which may make it somewhat hard to find. But as the Washington Post wrote: "If you’re looking for the best in popular fiction, it’s well worth seeking out."

First in the Series

A Death in Vienna (2005): This was originally published in the United Kingdom as Mortal Mischief. Liebermann and Rheinhardt, already friends, investigate the death of a beautiful young medium. Was she a victim of the supernatural?