This is the fifth of the “Liebermann Papers”, a series of mysteries set in 1900s Vienna and featuring inspector Oskar Rheinhardt and his friend, the young Freudian psychoanalyst Max Liebermann, who helps him resolve complex cases. It’s one of the few crime writers I follow as a fan, have read all of his books and patiently (or not) wait for the next instalment (one other writer is Qiu Xiaolong, writing about crimes in contemporary Shanghai). I hope Mr. Tallis doesn’t take a sabbatical anytime soon, because I’d miss my favourite characters and their adventures.
What’s interesting is that Tallis is a clinical psychologist himself and obviously passionate about recreating the right details and atmosphere of the Austrian capital at the turn of the century. I’m quite confident that everything down to the slightest detail is researched and believable, even when we’re talking in this case about a serial murderer who kills women by inserting a hat pin through their skull… Yes, Tallis books are not exactly for the faint-hearted because of its cold-blooded murderers and its gory forensic details, but they’re still quite entertaining and not excessively bleak or violent (it’s firmly set in the historical crime genre, not the noir or the thriller). The finishing touch is very sweet and ironic because the main characters eat a lot of Austrian traditional desserts… I hesitate: should I first re-read Freud or eat a piece of strudel?