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Vienna Secrets by Frank Tallis
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Frank Tallis brings back young Max Lieberman for his fourth appearance in "Vienna Secrets." Lieberman, a psychiatrist and member of Sigmund Freud's growing group of followers is called upon once again to offer psychoanalytical insight to a series of troubling murders by his friend Oskar Reinhardt, an inspector with the Vienna Security Office.

Three bodies are found at the base of plague columns in very public locations about Vienna near well known churches. Each victim has been decapitated. However, the men have lost their heads, not to a sword or other sharp instrument. Someone with incredible strength has ripped their heads from their necks. Oddly, great quantities of mud are found at each scene.

The first deaths are attributed to ritualistic murder, committed by a zealous cult of followers of a Hasidic Rabbi who foretells that justice is coming. But the pieces of the puzzle are not easily fitted together when the third victim is Jewish.

Tallis deftly weaves ancient Jewish folklore into the plot of "Vienna Secrets." Lieberman learns of the ancient "Book of Creation," describing the Rabbi of Prague's creation of a Golem centuries ago. Has a Kabbalistic Mystic recreated the Rabbi of Prague's monster?

Anti-Semetism is becoming a popular position reaching to the very heart of Vienna's Town Hall. The upstanding rulers of the city view the Jewish population as a plague. Efforts are being openly made to remove Jews from every profession in the city.

Even Lieberman becomes a target when he denies admittance of a priest to give the last rites to the profligate son of an Austrian Baron. The young Baron is in the last moments of his life, but is in a dream world looking forward to his next summer with his comrades in his country home.
Lieberman staunchly defends his actions to his detractors, explaining that had the priest given last rights, the young man would have been terrified at his impending death and would have died in terror, not peace. Unless he apologizes he will lose the right to practice in the hospital whose commissioners are members of the elite anti-semitic faction that pervades Vienna.

Meanwhile, Barash, the Hasidic Rabbi, has told Lieberman that he, too, may not live to see the end of the month. Vienna seems to have been taken over by extremists among Gentile and Jew.

Lieberman is haunted by dreams filled with symbols of ancient Rabbinic mysticism. He and Reinhardt must move quickly before Vienna explodes in a paroxysm of racial violence, if Lieberman himself does not fall prey to the mysterious killer who possesses incredible strength.

Once again, Tallis has executed a deftly plotted work of historical fiction and mystery. Frank Tallis is a clinical psychologist in England. The Lieberman series continues to draw growing recognition in England and France. Max Lieberman next appears in "Vienna Twilight." It will be on my list to read.
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06/12/2011
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