Deadly Communion by Frank Tallis

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Deadly Communion by Frank Tallis

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Katie Pullen
Reviewed by Katie Pullen
Summary: Max Liebermann and Oskar Rheinhardt return in the fifth book in the Liebermann Papers series to solve the chilling murders of four young women at the hands of a man obsessed with death. An engaging, taut and fast-paced thriller set in the world of 1900s' Vienna.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: August 2010
Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-0099519720

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Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt arrives at the Temple of Theseus in Vienna to investigate the murder of a young woman at the hands of a deviant sexual predator. Discovering the woman died by the unusual means of a hatpin inserted into her brain, Rheinhardt soon turns to his friend the young psychoanalyst Max Liebermann for assistance and the type of psychological insight that only Liebermann, a disciple of Freud, can provide. Meanwhile, Liebermann is already caught up in his own investigations with a patient named Erstweiler, who believes he has seen his doppelganger and that this is a precursor of death.

As Rheinhardt's investigation into the young woman's murder takes shape, three more women are killed and with Liebermann's help the two set out to not only catch the killer but also to understand his motivation and psychology. Meanwhile Liebermann's own investigations into Erstweiler's doppelganger become uncomfortable and he must turn to Rheinhardt for his unique detecting skills to unravel the truth.

As the investigations continue Rheinhardt and Liebermann are plunged into a world of sexual deviance, thanatophilia (an undue fascination with death), disturbing art and the glamourous world of couture in order to understand and find their killer and make sense of Erstweiler's delusions.

There are many layers to this excellent and extremely engaging crime thriller and at times it does get a little complicated remembering all the important details of both Rheinhardt's and Liebermann's investigations. However, Tallis cleverly refreshes the reader's memory at specific points along the way by bringing Liebermann and Rheinhardt together for a chapter to discuss the facts so far. As well as gently reminding us of what has happened, these scenes provide Liebermann and Rheinhardt with a chance to express their own thoughts and feelings about the killer of the young women and Liebermann's patient Erstweiler. It certainly helps that Tallis is a psychologist as Liebermann's speculations on the killer and indeed Erstweiler, reached from consultation with Freud himself and based on his theories, come across as well-researched and accurate and will certainly appeal to any reader interested in Freud's work.

The characters of Liebermann and Rheinhardt are an extremely plausible pairing with Liebermann complementing Rheinhardt's impeccable detective skills with his psychological instincts. They also complement each other personally, both having a fondness for music and Viennese coffee shops. Rheinhardt cannot resist any opportunity to sample the pastries and cakes of the numerous coffee houses he comes across during his investigations and the descriptions of the fabulous Viennese cakes he samples are truly mouth-watering.

The thriller aspect of the novel runs along at a satisfying breakneck speed and Tallis' writing is graphic and often blunt, surely leaving even readers with cast iron constitutions a little queasy following his autopsy descriptions. I've read many crime novels that run out of steam come the end, so was grateful that Tallis takes his time to tie up all the loose ends in a fulfilling and conclusive manner, which certainly whets the appetite for the next book.

As well as being a brilliant thriller, it's also a novel that makes you think, in particular with the numerous references to Freud's works, particularly The Interpretation of Dreams, which is no bad thing. A definite recommendation if you have enjoyed the previous books in the series, or if like me you haven't it's a great introduction to a fascinating world of murder and psychology.

I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further Reading Suggestion: If you like the sound of this book you may also enjoy The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld, Last Nocturne by Marjorie Eccles or Death at the President's Lodging by Michael Innes.

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