Death and the Maiden by Frank Tallis

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Death and the Maiden: A Max Liebermann Mystery
386 pages; Random House
Vienna, 1903: Ida Rosenkranz, beloved young opera star, is found dead and Dr. Max Liebermann, a psychiatrist, is called in to assist his friend Detective Inspector Oskar Reinhardt in the investigation. As the case progresses it becomes obvious that the naïve singer was caught up in the midst of a high-stakes political clash between the moderate Emperor Franz Joseph and his allies (fighting to preserve traditional imperial power) and the Mayor Kurt Lueger (seeking to wrest control of city and institute his ferociously anti-Semitic opinions). One of the two sides wanted the singer dead, but which? It's almost impossible to tell, since author Frank Tallis portrays the shadowy machinations of the main players with such skillful restraint that the truth remains hidden until literally very last pages of the book (and even then, it's revealed with enormous subtlety). But the larger revelation that emerges through the book—with total clarity and great beauty—is a portrait of the Austro-Hungarian Empire's decline. In Vienna, all seems well: People are constantly rushing to concerts, discussing philosophy over delectable pastries or playing duets on the piano. But underneath the lyrical strains of arias and lieder and declarations that the Empire is "the hub of the universe," and "a place of boundless possibilities," are the unmistakable chords of a heartrending, exquisite swansong sung by a world about to disappear. Not everyone hears them, but Liebermann and Reinhardt do, and as the case comes to a close, the saddest thing of all is their realization that Ida Rosenkranz is but an early victim of a struggle that will soon engulf the world they love.
— Nathalie Gorman