Deadly Communion – Frank Tallis

And here we are with the latest in the series of novels originally labelled The Liebermann Papers, which started with Mortal Mischief and led up to last year’s Darkness Rising. It’s much the same as before – murders in Vienna which need to be solved by Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt and his psychiatrist friend Max Liebermann with the increasing aid of Amelia Lydgate.

The twist this time is that the series of murders appear to be the work of a sexually-motivated person with a fixation on death, something that’s familiar in the modern world, but little-known in early 20th Century Vienna. There’s the usual danger to Max, who has the usual confrontation with the killer, Sigmund Freud appears as always, and it’s the usual page-turning fun and mind games.

But there’s more this time. The usual third person, multiple viewpoint narrative is interspersed with what we soon realise is the killer’s own story, from his childhood to his crimes, but something is wrong. Could there be someone else with a secret worth killing for?

I’ll freely admit to being hooked on detective fiction set in this era. I blame it on an early exposure to Sherlock Holmes[1], but there is something fascinating about the period, when scientific methods are slowly entering into the work of the detectives, and all manner of social changes are in progress. It helps if there’s a good story as well as lots of period and location detail – Tallis is particularly good on the subject of Viennese coffee and cakes – and this series certainly qualifies.

Good fun. If you haven’t read the earlier books, I suggest you track them down – you’ll probably find used copies for not very much, or try your local library. If you have read the earlier books, you’ll definitely want to catch this one, too.

[1] I recently re-read the full set again, in a lovely out-of-print annotated edition.