Vienna Secrets A Max Liebermann Mystery

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-02-23
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks

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In the dangerous, dazzling Vienna of 1903, an ingenious doctor and an intrepid detective again challenge psychotic criminals across a landscape teetering between the sophisticated and the savage, the thrilling future and the primitive past.

Author Biography

Frank Tallis is a writer and practicing clinical psychologist. He is the author of two previous Dr. Max Liebermann novels: Vienna Blood and Mortal Mischief.


Part One  

The Breaking of the Vessels  

Liebermann stepped down from the cab.  

Two constables wearing long coats and spiked helmets were standing in the middle of the street, ready to block the passage of traffic. One of them came forward.  

"Herr Dr. Liebermann?"  


"This way, please."  

The sun had barely risen, and the morning air was cold and dank. Ahead, four black lacquered carriages were parked: one of them was a windowless mortuary van. A flash of bright light unsettled the horses, signaling the presence of a police photographer. As Liebermann and his companion advanced, a cobbled concourse came into view, dominated by a white church with a convex baroque façade.  

"Maria Treue Kirche," said the constable. 

  Liebermann had often passed the church on his way to the Josefstadt theatre, but he had never paused to appreciate its size. He had to tilt his head back to see it all. Two spires, each decorated with a girdle of globes, flanked a classical columned pediment. A gilt inscription declared Virgo Fidelis Ave Coelestis Mater Amoris, and below this was a clock face showing the early hour: six o'clock. Winged figures peered over the gable. They were disporting themselves beneath a gold crucifix, enhanced with radial spokes to represent rays of divine light.  

On both sides of the concourse were identical three-story buildings. They were plain, functional structures, with roughcast walls. Liebermann saw the word "gymnasium" carved beneath a stone escutcheon.  

In front of the church were two gas lamps, and around one of these a loose group of men had assembled. The photographer and his assistant were preparing to take another photograph. Again, there was a brilliant flash, which exposed something dark and shapeless on the ground. The smoke from the magnesium ribbon hung motionless in the air. Liebermann was dimly aware of clopping hooves and a nervous whinnying. 

  One of the men turned round, a portly gentleman with a well-waxed upturned mustache. 


Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt marched over to greet his friend. "Thank you for coming, Max."  

The constable clicked his heels and hurried back to his post.  

"When did you receive Haussmann's call?"  

"About five," Liebermann replied, stifling a yawn.  

"I'm sorry," said Rheinhardt, his eyes luminous with compunction. "I thought, as you do not live so very far away..."   "Of course," said Liebermann, unable to disguise a note of reproach. 

  "What time must you be at the hospital?"   "Seven-thirty."  

Rheinhardt nodded and invited him to follow.  

"Did Haussmann explain?"   "Yes, he did."   "You know what to expect, then. Good."  

Grasping the photographer's arm, Rheinhardt said, "A moment, please." He then ushered his friend forward.  

Within the circle of light around the gas lamp was what appeared at first to be a heap of clothes. It was situated within a large area of reflective blackness, the edges of which were irregular-like the borders of a country on a map. The air smelled faintly of rusting iron.  

"Brother Stanislav," said Rheinhardt.  

The monk's body appeared shapeless on account of the habit worn by the Piarist order. It was similar to that of the Jesuits-closed at the front, with three leather buttons. The corpse was supine, its feet hidden beneath the hem. A hand with curled fingers stuck out on one side. This pallid bony claw was the only visible part of Brother Stanislav. The cowl was sodden, flat, and unmistakably empty.  

Liebermann looked beyond the bod

Excerpted from Vienna Secrets by Frank Tallis
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