‘This is the second novel in the Liebermann series and it lives up to the promise of Tallis’s earlier book, Mortal Mischief. At a time when readers know just about every forensic trick, Tallis cleverly takes us back to a moment poised between discredited Victorian theories about criminology and exciting new ideas about the unconscious.’
‘Tallis spices things up with a cast of outlandish suspects and colourful witnesses, and a series of mounting suspicions, wrong turns and dead ends creates an exhilarating chase. The layers of Viennese society are peeled away as delicately as the layers of each mouth-watering Viennese pastry that the portly Rheinhardt makes it his business to devour.’
‘… an astute and beautifully written psychological thriller. The author is a practising clinical psychologist and it shows: his handling of the psychoanalysis and criminal pathology are fantastic. This is a romping tale which takes in secret societies, race theories, Freud, classical music, and literary scholarship with an excellent balance of plot, narrative and period colour.’
Scotland on Sunday
‘… a fascinating portrait of one of the most vibrant yet sinister cities of fin-de-siecle Europe. On top of this, Tallis has laid a murder mystery of great intelligence.’
‘… interesting, original and (unusually) a second novel even better than the author’s first.’
‘Frank Tallis’s Vienna Blood is one of the finest literary thrillers I’ve ever read. It’s a dazzling tour de force … the kind of novel Arthur Conan Doyle might have written if he’d been a far better novelist .. the first great thriller of 2008.’
Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post.
‘Tallis .. cunningly folds psychoanalysis, early forensics, eugenics, music, and literature into a captivating suspense novel that also has its share of runic symbols, erotic swoons and swordplay. All is held in perfect balance by the strength of complex characters … and the tactile intensity of even incidental descriptions.’
Anna Mundow, The Boston Globe.
‘A series that, rather like a Viennese pastry, is stuffed almost to bursting with showy delights.’
Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times
Freud was rather fond of sphinxes. He was a great collector of antiquities and his rooms were crammed with statuettes, steeles and artefacts. Among this vast collection, were numerous representations of sphinxes: a seated sphinx on a fragment of first century Roman wall painting: another on a Greek water jar from the classical period; another in the form of a terracotta figurine, another in the form of a faience amulet. And hanging on the wall, was a reproduction of a painting called Oedipus and the Sphinx, by Ingres; however, Freud’s apartment was not the only place in Vienna you could find a sphinx.
Vienna is full of sphinxes: you can find them in the art-history museum, in the public gardens of the Belvedere palace, or more subtly, as moulded cast iron supports at the foot of street lamps. Their presence suggests that Vienna is a city of secrets – a haven for conspirators, cabals, and secret societies.
Freud’s psychoanalytic movement, started as a kind of secret society. He gathered around himself a small number of followers, who would meet, every Wednesday evening – in the waiting room of his apartment, Bergasse 19. Beneath banks of cigar smoke, under the watchful, silent stare of his statuettes, they would discuss dreams and the mysterious workings of the human mind. One of Freud’s acolytes, Max Graf, said that the atmosphere in that room could be compared to the foundation of a religion – and that Freud was its prophet.
This description of Graf’s is usually taken out of context, particularly by critics of Freud, who use it to create an impression that psychoanalysis is – and always has been – a pseudo-religion rather than a scientific project; however, in Freud’s Vienna, secret gatherings were thick on the ground. There was nothing unusual about Freud’s group. Behind closed doors, the city was replete with earnest men, hunched around tables beneath flickering gaslights, united by common beliefs, and convinced that they might change the world. Unfortunately, not all of these societies were benign.
From about 1900, a number of secret societies began to coalesce around the sinister figure of Guido von List – a successful journalist and writer, beloved of the German literati. Eventually these disparate societies united under the banner of a single mystical association – Armanenschaft. The term Arman refers to a mythical tribe of pre-Christian nobles.
The Arman fraternities used a special sign by which they could recognize each other – the 18th rune, the fyrfos, or hooked cross. We would all know it by its other name: the swastika. Von List was completely obsessed with the superiority of the German speaking peoples and preserving the purity of German blood lines. He divided humanity into two groups: The Aryan Masters – and the ‘herd people’, by which he mostly meant the Jews and southern races. He wrote of the coming of a German messiah – the invincible, the strong one from above, a Wagnerian hero who would establish a great northern alliance and reign as a god-man – subject to no law, but his own.
I find it odd that the writings of von List and his disciples are rarely referenced in 20th century histories. When they are referred to, they are usually dismissed as something of a joke – with accompanying remarks to the effect that von List was not taken very seriously by his contemporaries.
Although we can be fairly sure that the liberal patrons of Vienna’s coffee houses – the likes of Schnitzler, Mahler, Klimt, or Freud – would have had little time for von List’s posturing, we can be absolutely certain that one person, at least, took von Lists writings very seriously indeed.
Little of Hitler’s personal library remains. But some fragments and books have survived. One of these – a book on nationalism – contains a longhand dedication:
‘To Mr. Adolf Hitler, my dear Arman brother, B. Steininger’.
The word Arman might have been employed here as a term of respect or honour: but it is far more likely that Hitler was associated with von List’s Armanenschaft – or a related organization called The High Armanic Order. Hitler would have first encountered von List’s ideas when he was a poverty-stricken artist in Vienna. We know that they made a deep impression on him – because, after his rise to power, Hitler incorporated whole passages of von List’s writings in his speeches.
It is this world – the world of Viennese secret societies – the world of von List and his acolytes – that I explore in Vienna Blood.
As 1902 draws to a close, the city is in the grip of a Siberian winter – and a serial killer has embarked upon a campaign of bizarre murders. Vicious mutilation, arcane symbols, and a seemingly random choice of victim are his most distinctive peculiarities. The investigation draws Dr. Max Liebermann into the orbit of Primal Fire – one of the secret societies that will eventually be absorbed into von List’s Armanenschaft.
At first, Liebermann struggles to understand the killer’s mind; however, after attending one of Freud’s Wednesday evening gatherings, a conversation with the master provides him with some critical insights ….
Vienna Blood and other Frank Tallis titles can be purchased on Amazon.