Deadly Communion by Frank Tallis

Frank TallisDeadly Communion was book of the month for my book group recently. It is not a book that I would have picked up of my own accord. The author is a British writer and clinical psychologist. He has held lecturing posts in clinical psychology and neuroscience at the Institute of Psychiatry and King’s College, London. Although he has written several self-help manuals, Deadly Communion is the fifth book in a series featuring a psychoanalyst, Dr. Max Liebermann. I do not intend to read more of the series.

This book is a murder mystery, a genre I usually enjoy, but I suppose there are always exceptions. The book is set in Vienna, Austria at the beginning of the 20th Century. Liebermann and a detective, Oskar Reinhardt battle to catch the criminals who commit the most clever and brutal murders.

Detective Inspector Reinhardt finds that young women are being murdered in an ingenious manner, with a small hat pin. This leaves an almost undetectable mark. Dr. Max Liebermann finds the killer is unique in his experience of psychopathology.

The killer is a person who murders in the midst of consensual sex. The descriptions of the Deadly Communionway the women’s bodies are left and of the postmortems are disgusting. They are far more explicit than is necessary, as if the writer enjoyed the graphic descriptions.Liebermann must find murderer while struggling with his own forbidden desire for a female patient.

There were some good descriptions of old Vienna. Tallis also offers his reader some excellent descriptions of cafe life, coffee and cakes savoured by Rheinhardt. However, sadly the story owed more to the author’s pschological training than to the art of literature. It was gaudy and gorey. I will not seek out more works by Dr. Frank Tallis and do not recommend Deadly Communion.

Valerie Penny

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