In Vienna at the turn of the 20th century, psychoanalyst Max Liebermann is frequently called upon by his friend and musical partner, Detective Inspector Oskar Reinhardt, to help solve baffling criminal mysteries. Frank Tallis, himself a clinical psychologist as well as a writer of first-rate literate suspense, whisks us back to a time when new theories about the workings of the mind are taking shape, and scientific methods of investigation are employed under flickering gaslight.
In the Vienna of Freud, Klimt, and Mahler, Max Liebermann practices the controversial new therapy of psychoanalysis with the skill of a master detective. In this debut mystery of the series—published in Britain as Mortal Mischief, and a finalist for the 2005 Ellis Peters Historical Dagger—Detective Oskar Rheinhardt calls on his friend Max for assistance after a psychic medium dies under extraordinary circumstances. Her body was found in a locked room; she seems to have been shot, but there's no gun and no trace of a bullet. On a table lies a suicide note, claiming that there is "such a thing as forbidden knowledge." All signs point to a supernatural killer, but the rational Liebermann is not so easily convinced.