A Death in Vienna (Max Liebermann Series #1)

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Overview

In 1902, elegant Vienna is the city of the new century, the center of discoveries in everything from the writing of music to the workings of the human mind. But now a brutal homicide has stunned its citizens and appears to have bridged the gap between science and the supernatural. Two very different sleuths from opposite ends of the spectrum will need to combine their talents to solve the boggling crime: Detective Oskar Rheinhardt, who is on the cutting edge of modern police work, and his friend Dr. Max ...

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A Death in Vienna

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Overview

In 1902, elegant Vienna is the city of the new century, the center of discoveries in everything from the writing of music to the workings of the human mind. But now a brutal homicide has stunned its citizens and appears to have bridged the gap between science and the supernatural. Two very different sleuths from opposite ends of the spectrum will need to combine their talents to solve the boggling crime: Detective Oskar Rheinhardt, who is on the cutting edge of modern police work, and his friend Dr. Max Liebermann, a follower of Sigmund Freud and a pioneer on new frontiers of psychology. As a team they must use both hard evidence and intuitive analysis to solve a medium’s mysterious murder–one that couldn’t have been committed by anyone alive.

__________________________________________________________

THE MORTALIS DOSSIER- PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS: THE CURIOUS CASE OF PROFESSOR SIGMUND F. AND DETECTIVE FICTION

Summertime–the Austrian Alps: A middle-aged doctor, wishing to forget medicine, turns off the beaten track and begins a strenuous climb. When he reaches the summit, he sits and contemplates the distant prospect. Suddenly he hears a voice.
“Are you a doctor?”
He is not alone. At first, he can’t believe that he’s being addressed.
He turns and sees a sulky-looking eighteen-year-old. He recognizes her (she served him his meal the previous evening). “Yes,” he replies.
“I’m a doctor. How did you know that?”
She tells him that her nerves are bad, that she needs help.
S ometimes she feels like she can’t breathe, and there’s a hammering in her head. And sometimes something very disturbing happens. She sees things–including a face that fills her with horror. . . .
Well, do you want to know what happens next? I’d be surprised if you didn’t.
We have here all the ingredients of an engaging thriller: an isolated setting, a strange meeting, and a disconcerting confession.
So where does this particular opening scene come from? A littleknown work by one of the queens of crime fiction? A lost reel of an early Hitchcock film, perhaps? Neither. It is in fact a faithful summary of the first few pages of Katharina by Sigmund Freud, also known as case study number four in his Studies on Hysteria, co-authored with Josef
Breuer and published in 1895.
It is generally agreed that the detective thriller is a nineteenthcentury invention, perfected by the holy trinity of Collins, Poe, and
(most importantly) Conan Doyle; however, the genre would have been quite different had it not been for the oblique influence of psychoanalysis.
The psychological thriller often pays close attention to personal history–childhood experiences, relationships, and significant life events–in fact, the very same things that any self-respecting therapist would want to know about. These days it’s almost impossible to think of the term “thriller” without mentally inserting the prefix
“psychological.”
So how did this happen? How did Freud’s work come to influence the development of an entire literary genre? The answer is quite simple.
He had some help–and that help came from the American film industry.
Now it has to be said that Freud didn’t like America. After visiting
America, he wrote: “I am very glad I am away from it, and even more that I don’t have to live there.” He believed that American food had given him a gastrointestinal illness, and that his short stay in America had caused his handwriting to deteriorate. His anti-American sentiments finally culminated with his famous remark that he considered
America to be “a gigantic mistake.”
Be that as it may, although Freud didn’t like America, America liked Freud. In fact, America loved him. And nowhere in America was
Freud more loved than in Hollywood.
The special relationship between the film industry and psychoanalysis began in the 1930s, when many émigré analysts–fleeing from the Nazis–settled on the West Coast. Entering analysis became very fashionable among the studio elite, and Hollywood soon acquired the sobriquet “couch canyon.” Dr. Ralph Greenson, for example–a well-known Hollywood analyst–had a patient list that included the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis,
and Vivien Leigh. And among the many Hollywood directors who succumbed to Freud’s influence was Alfred Hitchcock, whose thrillers were much more psychological than any that had been filmed before.
In one of his films Freud actually makes an appearance–well, more or less. I am thinking here of Spellbound, released in 1945, and based on
Francis Beedings’s crime novel The House of Dr. Edwardes.
T he producer of Spellbound, David O. Selznick, was himself in psychoanalysis–as were most of his family–and so enthusiastic was he about Freud’s ideas that he recruited his own analyst to help him vet the script. Hitchcock’s film has everything we expect from a psychological thriller: a clinical setting, a murder, a man who has lost his memory, a dream sequence, and a sinewy plot that twists and turns toward a dramatic climax. That this film owes a large debt to psychoanalysis is made absolutely clear when a character appears who is–in all but name–Sigmund Freud: a wise old doctor with a beard, glasses,
and a fantastically hammy Viennese accent.
Since Hitchcock’s time, authors and screenwriters have had much fun playing with the resonances that exist between psychoanalysis and detection. This kind of writing reached its apotheosis in 1975 with the publication of Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, a novel in which Freud and Sherlock Holmes are brought together to solve the same case.
The relationship between psychoanalysis and detection was not lost on Freud. In his Introductory Lectures, for example, there is a passage in which he stresses how both the detective and the psychoanalyst depend on accumulating piecemeal evidence that usually arrives in the form of small and apparently inconsequential clues.

If you were a detective engaged in tracing a murder, would you expect to find that the murderer had left his photograph behind at the place of the crime, with his address attached? Or would you not necessarily have to be satisfied with comparatively slight and obscure traces of the person you were in search of? So do not let us underestimate small indications; by their help we may succeed in getting on the track of something bigger.

Later in the same series of lectures, Freud blurs the boundary between psychoanalysis and detection even further. He goes beyond pointing out that psychoanalysis and detection are similar enterprises and suggests that psychoanalytic techniques might actually be used to aid detection.
Freud describes the case of a real murderer who acquired highly dangerous pathogenic organisms from scientific institutes by pretending to be a bacteriologist. The murderer then used these stolen cultures to fatally infect his victims. On one occasion, he audaciously wrote a letter to the director of one of these scientific institutes, complaining that the cultures he had been given were ineffective. But the letter contained a Freudian slip–an unconsciously performed blunder.
Instead of writing in my experiments on mice or guinea pigs,
the murderer wrote in my experiments on men. Freud notes that the institute director–
not being conversant with psychoanalysis–was happy to overlook such a telling error.
In a little-known paper called Psychoanalysis and the Ascertaining of
Truth in Courts of Law,
Freud is even more confident that psychoanalytic techniques might be used in the service of detection. He writes:
In both [psychoanalysis and law] we are concerned with a secret, with something hidden. . . . In the case of the criminal it is a secret which he knows he hides from you, but in the case of the hysteric it is a secret hidden from himself. . . . The task of the therapeutist is, however, the same as the task of the judge;
he must discover the hidden psychic material. To do this we have invented various methods of detection, some of which lawyers are now going to imitate.
It is interesting that criminology and forensic science emerged at exactly the same time as psychoanalysis. In 1893, Professor Hans Gross
(also Viennese) published the first handbook of criminal investigation,
a manual for detectives. It was the same year that Freud published
(with Josef Breuer) his first work on psychoanalysis: a “Preliminary
Communication,” On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena.
Freud, largely via Hollywood, wielded an extraordinary influence on detective fiction. But to what extent is the reverse true?
We know that Freud was very widely read–and that he had and Vivien Leigh. And among the many Hollywood directors who succumbed to Freud’s influence was Alfred Hitchcock, whose thrillers were much more psychological than any that had been filmed before.
In one of his films Freud actually makes an appearance–well, more or less. I am thinking here of Spellbound, released in 1945, and based on
Francis Beedings’s crime novel The House of Dr. Edwardes.
The producer of Spellbound, David O. Selznick, was himself in psychoanalysis–as were most of his family–and so enthusiastic was he about Freud’s ideas that he recruited his own analyst to help him vet the script. Hitchcock’s film has everything we expect from a psychological thriller: a clinical setting, a murder, a man who has lost his memory, a dream sequence, and a sinewy plot that twists and turns toward a dramatic climax. That this film owes a large debt to psychoanalysis is made absolutely clear when a character appears who is–in all but name–Sigmund Freud: a wise old doctor with a beard, glasses,
and a fantastically hammy Viennese accent.
Since Hitchcock’s time, authors and screenwriters have had much fun playing with the resonances that exist between psychoanalysis and detection. This kind of writing reached its apotheosis in 1975 with the publication of Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, a novel in which Freud and Sherlock Holmes are brought together to solve the same case.
The relationship between psychoanalysis and detection was not lost on Freud. In his Introductory Lectures, for example, there is a passage in which he stresses how both the detective and the psychoanalyst depend on accumulating piecemeal evidence that usually arrives in the form of small and apparently inconsequential clues.
If you were a detective engaged in tracing a murder, would you expect to find that the murderer had left his photograph behind at the place of the crime, with his address attached? Or would you not necessarily have to be satisfied with comparatively slight and obscure traces of the person you were in search of? So do not let us underestimate small indications; by their help we may succeed in getting on the track of something bigger.
Later in the same series of lectures, Freud blurs the boundary between psychoanalysis and detection even further. He goes beyond pointing out that psychoanalysis and detection are similar enterprises and suggests that psychoanalytic techniques might actually be used to aid detection.
Freud describes the case of a real murderer who acquired highly dangerous pathogenic organisms from scientific institutes by pretending to be a bacteriologist. The murderer then used these stolen cultures to fatally infect his victims. On one occasion, he audaciously wrote a letter to the director of one of these scientific institutes, complaining that the cultures he had been given were ineffective. But the letter contained a Freudian slip–an unconsciously performed blunder.
Instead of writing in my experiments on mice or guinea pigs, the murderer wrote in my experiments on men. Freud notes that the institute director–
not being conversant with psychoanalysis– was happy to overlook such a telling error.
In a little-known paper called Psychoanalysis and the Ascertaining of
Truth in Courts of Law,
Freud is even more confident that psychoanalytic techniques might be used in the service of detection. He writes:
In both [psychoanalysis and law] we are concerned with a secret, with something hidden. . . . In the case of the criminal it is a secret which he knows he hides from you, but in the case of the hysteric it is a secret hidden from himself. . . . The task of the therapeutist is, however, the same as the task of the judge;
he must discover the hidden psychic material. To do this we have invented various methods of detection, some of which lawyers are now going to imitate.
It is interesting that criminology and forensic science emerged at exactly the same time as psychoanalysis. In 1893, Professor Hans Gross
(also Viennese) published the first handbook of criminal investigation,
a manual for detectives. It was the same year that Freud published
(with Josef Breuer) his first work on psychoanalysis: a “Preliminary
Communication,” On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena.
Freud, largely via Hollywood, wielded an extraordinary influence on detective fiction. But to what extent is the reverse true?
We know that Freud was very widely read–and that he had lished a memoir in 1971, which contains a very interesting aside. The two men had been discussing literature, and Freud had expressed his admiration for several writers, most of them acknowledged masters and writers of the first magnitude, such as Dostoevsky. However, by the Wolfman’s reckoning at least, a lesser talent seemed to have gatecrashed
Freud’s literary pantheon.
Once we happened to speak of Conan Doyle and his creation,
Sherlock Holmes. I had thought that Freud would have no use for this type of light reading matter, and was surprised to find that this was not at all the case and that Freud had read this author attentively. The fact that circumstantial evidence is useful in psychoanalysis when reconstructing a childhood history may explain Freud’s interest in this type of literature.
The Wolfman’s final observation is clearly correct. Crimes are like symptoms, and the psychoanalyst and detective are similar creatures.
Both scrutinize circumstantial evidence, both reconstruct histories,
and both seek to establish an ultimate cause.
If we broaden our definition of what might legitimately be called detective fiction and permit ourselves to consider works written even before Hoffmann’ s Mademoiselle de Scudéry, then we encounter a story that, without doubt, exerted a profound influence on Freud and the development of psychoanalysis. It is a story that British writer Christopher
Booker has called the greatest “whodunit” in all literature. It is one of the earliest stories of murder and detection ever recorded and has a twist in the tale that still has the power to shock: Oedipus Rex by
Sophocles.
When we meet Oedipus, there is a curse on his country. He is told that this curse will not be lifted until he has discovered the identity of the man who murdered his predecessor: King Laius, the former husband of Oedipus’s new wife, Jocasta. Oedipus follows clue after clue until his investigation leads him inexorably to a terrible conclusion.
It was he, Oedipus, who killed the king. Laius was his father and
Oedipus is now married to his own mother.
This classic tragedy is also an ancient detective story and gave its name to the cornerstone of psychoanalytic theory–the much mooted
(and even more misunderstood) Oedipus complex–a group of largely unconscious ideas and feelings concerning wishes to possess the parent of the opposite sex and eliminate the parent of the same sex.
I think there is something very satisfying about the relationship between psychoanalysis and detective fiction. Freud influenced the course of detective fiction, but by the same token, detective fiction (in its broadest possible sense) also influenced Freud. And at a deeper level, psychoanalysis–a process that resembles detective work–
discovers a “whodunit” buried in the depths of every human psyche.

THIS TITLE COMES FROM MORTALIS: Mysteries and Thrillers

Random House Trade Paperbacks is please to present Mortalis, a line of books featuring mysteries and thrillers that are historical and/or international in scope. The list includes trade paperback originals as well as reprints of classic mysteries, international thrillers, and the occasional tale of true crime.

"Mortalis gives us an ideal way to introduce the best new writers as well as to celebrate the masters in these genres," said Jane von Mehren, Vice President and Publisher, Trade Paperbacks, Random House Publishing Group.

Mortalis republishes some classic authors such as Martin Cruz Smith , P. D. James, Robert Harris, Agatha Christie, and Wilkie Collins as well as original trade paperbacks such as Boris Akunin's SISTER PELAGIA AND THE WHITE BULLDOG (the start of a new series from an internationally bestselling author), New York Times Notable author David Corbett's BLOOD OF PARADISE, and Alex Carr's literary thriller AN ACCIDENTAL AMERICAN. Featuring stunning new packaging, each title contains a "dossier" in the back-a brand new commentary section that illuminates a specific and intriguing aspect of the work, or the author's career.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An engrossing portrait of a legendary period as well as a brain teaser of startling perplexity . . . In Tallis’s sure hands, the story evolves with grace and excitement. . . . A perfect combination of the hysterical past and the cooler–but probably more dangerous–present.”–Chicago Tribune

“[An] elegant historical mystery . . . stylishly presented and intelligently resolved.”¶
The New York Times Book Review

“[A Death in Vienna is] a winner for its smart and flavorsome fin-de-siècle portrait of the seat of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and for introducing Max Liebermann, a young physician who is feverish with the possibilities of the new science of psychoanalysis.” –The Washington Post

“Frank Tallis knows what he’s writing about in this excellent mystery. . . . His writing and feel for the period are top class.”¶
The Times (London)
Publishers Weekly
British author Tallis (Love Sick) sets his intelligent murder mystery in the stormy, atmospheric Austrian capital at the turn of the 20th century. Psychoanalyst Max Lieberman, a contemporary of Freud's, takes time out of his busy schedule treating hysterics to help his friend Det. Oskar Rheinhardt solve the perplexing case of a beautiful medium found dead in a locked room on the day of her weekly seance. She's left a suicide note and died of a gunshot to the heart, but there's no weapon or bullet in her body. Rheinhardt is certain she's been murdered, and as he interviews each of her clients, he uncovers a number of potential suspects with motive enough for murder-but without the know-how to accomplish this impossible deed. Midway through the investigation, one of the medium's clients is bludgeoned to death in his sleep-also inside a locked room. Despite Rheinhardt's superior sleuthing and Lieberman's keen observational and analytical abilities, the murderer and the key to his modus operandi elude them until help comes from an unlikely source. Tallis convincingly animates Lieberman and Rheinhardt in a picturesque Vienna roiling with cultural and intellectual change. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In fin-de-siecle Vienna, psychiatrist Max Lieberman appreciates the work of his colleague, Dr. Freud, and eagerly applies his techniques when asked by friend and inspector Oskar Rheinhardt to investigate the murder of a beautiful medium, found shot to death in her locked s ance room. But no gun or bullet is found. Is it a demonic event, or did one of the other attendees at the s ance manage it somehow? British psychologist Tallis deftly brings to life a city of contrasts, caught between polite manners and virulent anti-Semitism. This first volume in a new historical series should appeal to Sherlock Holmes fans as well as those of John Dixon Carr's locked-room puzzlers. Tallis lives in London. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 11/1/05; Tallis has recently been shortlisted for Britain's Crime Writers Association's Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award.-Ed.] Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Misdirection is the name of the game in this intricate thriller (published in England as Mortal Mischief), the work of a practicing London psychologist. Its sleuth is himself a psychotherapist: Max Liebermann, disciple and acquaintance of controversial new eminence Sigmund Freud (who shows up occasionally to dispense wisdom and bad Jewish jokes), and close friend of sturdy, if unimaginative police inspector Oskar Rheinhardt-who plays the workmanlike Watson to Liebermann's quick-witted Holmes. Two mysteries attract Max's attention: the fatal shooting of beautiful spiritualist Charlotte Lowenstein, whose body is discovered in a locked room (where no bullet is found), and the hysterical paralysis that possesses Amelia Lydgate, a handsome young woman who languishes under the regimen of electrotherapy demanded by Max's dictatorial superior, but improves markedly when Max seeks the emotional cause of her affliction. Tallis charts the course of the Lowenstein investigation with considerable ingenuity and in generous detail, providing a rich surfeit of information about the several prime suspects, all clients who had regularly attended the deceased's celebrated seances. These include handsome young stage magician (and cad) Otto Braun, the late Charlotte's lover and probably criminal accomplice; wealthy banker Heinrich Holderlin and his breathless wife Juno; romantically hopeful, hopelessly ingenuous seamstress Natalie Heck; suspiciously neurotic locksmith Karl Uberhorst; no-account Hungarian playboy Count Zoltan Zaborszky; politically ambitious businessman Hans Bruckmuller-oh, and nearly every other denizen of early-20th-century Viennese cafe society. A second murder and a seance arranged forinvestigative purposes by the diligent Oskar follow, and a Hitchcockian climax high atop downtown Vienna makes excellent use of revivified Amelia's talents and confirms Max's Freud-inspired theories. A graceful final paragraph completes the elegant circle that this long, complex tale has so deftly described. Immensely entertaining, and very clever indeed.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812977639
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/8/2007
  • Series: Max Liebermann Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 280,925
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Part One

The God of Storms

I
It was the day of the great storm. I remember it well because my father—Mendel Liebermann—had suggested that we meet for coffee at The Imperial. I had a strong suspicion that something was on his mind. . . .

A roiling mass of black cloud had risen from behind the Opera
House like a volcanic eruption of sulphurous smoke and ash. Its dimensions suggested impending doom—an epic catastrophe on the scale of Pompeii. In the strange amber light, the surrounding buildings had become jaundiced. Perched on the rooftops, the decorative statuary—classical figures and triumphal eagles—seemed to have been carved from brimstone. A fork of lightning flowed down the mountain of cloud like a river of molten iron. The earth trembled and the air stirred, yet still there was no rain. The coming storm seemed to be saving itself—building its reserves of power in preparation for an apocalyptic deluge.
The streetcar bell sounded, rousing Liebermann from his reverie and dispersing a group of horse-drawn carriages on the lines.
As the streetcar rolled forward, Liebermann wondered why his father had wanted to see him. It wasn’t that such a meeting was unusual;
they often met for coffee. Rather, it was something about the manner in which the invitation had been issued. Mendel’s voice had been curiously strained—reedy and equivocal. Moreover, his nonchalance had been unconvincing, suggesting to Liebermann the concealment of an ulterior—or perhaps even unconscious—motive. But what might that be?
The streetcar slowed in the heavy traffic of the Karntner Ring, and
Liebermann jumped off before the vehicle had reached its stop. He raised the collar of his astrakhan coat against the wind and hurried toward his destination.
Even though lunch had already been served, The Imperial was seething with activity. Waiters, with silver trays held high, were dodging one another between crowded tables, and the air was filled with animated conversation. At the back of the café, a pianist was playing a Chopin mazurka. Liebermann wiped the condensation off his spectacles with a handkerchief and hung his coat on the stand.
“Good afternoon, Herr Doctor.”
Liebermann recognized the voice and without turning replied,
“Good afternoon, Bruno. I trust you are well?”
“I am, sir. Very well indeed.”
When Liebermann turned, the waiter continued. “If you’d like to come this way, sir. Your father is already here.”
Bruno beckoned, and guided Liebermann through the hectic room. They arrived at a table near the back, where Mendel was concealed behind the densely printed sheets of the Wiener Zeitung.
“Herr Liebermann?” said Bruno. Mendel folded his paper. He was a thickset man with a substantial beard and bushy eyebrows. His expression was somewhat severe—although softened by a liberal network of laughter lines. The waiter added, “Your son.”
“Ahh, Maxim!” said the old man. “There you are!” He sounded a little irritated, as though he had been kept waiting.
After a moment’s hesitation, Liebermann replied, “But I’m early,
Father.”
Mendel consulted his pocket watch.
“So you are. Well, sit down, sit down. Another pharisäer for me and . . . Max?” He invited his son to order.
“A schwarzer, please, Bruno.”
The waiter executed a modest bow and was gone.
“So,” said Mendel. “How are you, my boy?”
“Very well, Father.”
“You’re looking a bit thinner than usual.”
“Am I?”
“Yes. Drawn.”
“I hadn’t noticed.”
“Are you eating properly?”
Liebermann laughed. “Very well, as it happens. And how are you,
Father?”
Mendel grimaced.
“Ach! Good days and bad days, you know how it is. I’m seeing that specialist you recommended, Pintsch. And there is some improvement,
I suppose. But my back isn’t much better.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
Mendel dismissed his son’s remark with a wave of his hand.
“Do you want something to eat?” Mendel pushed the menu across the table. “You look like you need it. I think I’ll have the topfenstrudel.
Liebermann studied the extensive cakelist: apfeltorte, cremeschnitte,
truffeltorte, apfelstrudel.
It ran on over several pages.
“Your mother sends her love,” said Mendel, “and would like to know when she can expect to see you again.” His expression hovered somewhere between sympathy and reprimand.
“I’m sorry, Father,” said Liebermann. “I’ve been very busy. Too many patients . . . Tell mother I’ll try to see her next week. Friday, perhaps?”
“Then you must come to dinner.”
“Yes,” said Liebermann, suddenly feeling that he had already committed himself more than he really wanted. “Yes. Thank you.” He looked down at the menu again: dobostorte, guglhupf, linzertorte. The
Chopin mazurka ended on a loud minor chord, and a ripple of applause passed through the café audience. Encouraged, the pianist played a glittering arpeggio figure on the upper keys, under which he introduced the melody of a popular waltz. A group of people seated near the window began another round of appreciative clapping.
Bruno returned with the coffees and stood to attention with his pencil and notepad.
“The topfenstrudel,” said Mendel.
“The rehrücken, please,” said Liebermann.
Mendel stirred the cream into his pharisäer—which came with a tot of rum—and immediately started to talk about the family textile business. This was not unusual. Indeed, it had become something of a tradition. Profits had risen, and Mendel was thinking of expanding the enterprise: another factory, or even a shop, perhaps. Now that the meddling bureaucrats had lifted the ban on department stores, he could see a future in retail—new opportunities. His old friend Blomberg had already opened a successful department store and had suggested that they might go into partnership. Throughout, Mendel’s expression was eager and clearly mindful of his son’s reactions.
Liebermann understood why his father kept him so well informed.
Although he was proud of Liebermann’s academic achievements, he still hoped that one day young Max would step into his shoes.
Mendel’s voice slowed when he noticed his son’s hand. The fingers seemed to be following the pianist’s melody—treating the edge of the table like a keyboard.
“Are you listening?” said Mendel.
“Yes. Of course I’m listening,” Liebermann replied. He had become accustomed to such questioning and could no longer be caught out, as was once the case. “You’re thinking of going into business with
Herr Blomberg.”
Liebermann assumed a characteristic position. His right hand—
shaped like a gun—pressed against his cheek, the index finger resting gently against the right temple. It was a “listening” position favored by many psychiatrists.
“So—what do you think? A good idea?” asked Mendel.
“Well, if the existing department store is profitable, that sounds reasonable enough.”
“It’s a considerable investment.”
“I’m sure it is.”
The old man stroked his beard. “You don’t seem to be very keen on the idea.”
“Father, does it matter what I think?”
Mendel sighed. “No. I suppose not.” His disappointment was palpable.
Liebermann looked away. He took no joy in disappointing his father and now felt guilty. The old man’s motives were entirely laudable, and Liebermann was perfectly aware that his comfortable standard of living was sustained—at least in part—by Mendel’s exemplary management of the family business. Yet he couldn’t ever imagine himself running a factory or managing a department store.
The idea was ludicrous.
As these thoughts were passing through his mind, Liebermann noticed the arrival of a gentleman in his middle years. On entering the café, the man removed his hat and surveyed the scene. His hair was combed to the side, creating a deep side parting, and his neatly trimmed mustache and beard were almost entirely gray. He received a warm welcome from the head waiter, who helped him to take his coat off. He was immaculately dressed in pin-striped trousers, a widelapeled jacket, and a “showy” vest. He must have made a quip, because the head waiter suddenly began laughing. The man seemed in no hurry to find a seat and stood by the door, listening intently to the waiter, who now appeared—Liebermann thought—to have started to tell a story.
Mendel saw that his son had become distracted.
“Know him, do you?”
Liebermann turned. “I’m sorry?”
“Dr. Freud,” said Mendel in a flat voice.
Liebermann was astonished that his father knew the man’s identity.
“Yes, I do know him. And it’s Professor Freud, actually.”
“Professor Freud, then,” said Mendel. “But he hasn’t been a professor for very long, has he?”
“A few months,” said Liebermann, raising his eyebrows. “How did you know that?”
“He comes to the lodge.”
“What lodge?”
Mendel scowled. “B’nai B’rith.”
“Oh yes, of course.”
“Although God knows why. I’m not sure what sort of a Jew he’s supposed to be. He doesn’t seem to believe in anything. And as for his ideas . . .” Mendel shook his head. “He gave us a talk last year.
Scandalous. How well do you know him?”
“Quite well. . . . We meet occasionally to discuss his work.”
“What? You think there’s something in it?”
“The book he wrote with Breuer on hysteria was excellent, and
The Interpretation of Dreams is . . . well, a masterpiece. Of course, I don’t agree with everything he says. Even so, I’ve found his treatment suggestions very useful.”
“Then you must be in a minority.”
“Undoubtedly. But I am convinced that Professor Freud’s system—
a system that he calls psychoanalysis—will become more widely accepted.”
“Not in Vienna.”
“I don’t know. One or two of my colleagues, other junior psychiatrists,
are very interested in Professor Freud’s ideas.”
Mendel’s brow furrowed. “Some of the things he said last year were obscene. I pity those in his care.”
“I would be the first to admit,” said Liebermann, “that he has become somewhat preoccupied—of late—with the erotic life of his patients.
However, his understanding of the human mind extends well beyond our animal instincts.”
The professor was still standing by the door with the head waiter.
He suddenly burst out laughing and slapped his companion on the back. It was clear that the head waiter had just told him a joke.
“Dear God,” said Mendel under his breath, “I hope he doesn’t come this way.” Then he sighed with relief as Professor Freud was ushered to a table beyond their view. Mendel was about to say something else but stopped when Bruno arrived with the cakes.
Topfenstrudel for Herr Liebermann and rehrücken for Herr Doctor
Liebermann. More coffee?” Bruno gestured toward Mendel’s empty glass.
“Yes, why not? A mélange, and another schwarzer for my son.”
Mendel looked enviously at his son’s gâteau, a large glazed chocolate sponge cake shaped like a saddle of deer, filled with apricot jam and studded with almonds. His own order was less arresting, being a simple pastry filled with sweet curd cheese.
Liebermann noticed his father’s lingering gaze.
“You should have ordered one too.”
Mendel shook his head. “Pintsch told me I must lose weight.”
“Well, you won’t lose weight eating topfenstrudel.
Mendel shrugged and took a mouthful of pastry but stopped chew-
ing when a loud thunderclap shook the building. “It’s going to be a bad one,” said Mendel, nodding toward the window. Outside, Vienna had succumbed to a preternatural twilight.
“Maxim,” Mendel continued, “I wanted to see you today for a reason.
A specific reason.”
At last, thought Liebermann. Finally, he was about to discover the true purpose of their meeting. Liebermann braced himself mentally,
still unsure of what to expect.
“You probably think it’s nothing to do with me,” Mendel added.
“But—” He stopped abruptly and pushed the severed corner of his
topfenstrudel around the plate with his fork.
“What is it, Father?”
“I was speaking to Herr Weiss the other day and . . .” Again his sentence tailed off. “Maxim.” This time he returned to his task with greater determination. “You and Clara seem to be getting along well enough and—understandably, I think—Herr Weiss is anxious to know of your intentions.”
“My intentions?”
“Yes,” said Mendel, looking at his son. “Your intentions.” He carried on eating his cake.
“I see,” said Liebermann, somewhat taken aback. Although he had considered many subjects that his father might wish to discuss, his relationship with Clara Weiss had not been one of them. Yet now the omission seemed obvious.
“Well,” replied Liebermann. “What can I say? I like Clara very much.”
Mendel wiped his mouth with a napkin and leaned forward.
“And?”
“And . . .” Liebermann looked into his father’s censorious eyes.
“And . . . I suppose that my intention is, in the fullness of time to—”
(Now it was his turn to hesitate.)

Read More Show Less

Introduction

PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS:
THE CURIOUS CASE OF PROFESSOR SIGMUND F. AND DETECTIVE FICTION

Summertime–the Austrian Alps: A middle-aged doctor, wishing
to forget medicine, turns off the beaten track and begins a strenuous
climb. When he reaches the summit, he sits and contemplates the distant
prospect. Suddenly he hears a voice.
“Are you a doctor?”
He is not alone. At first, he can’t believe that he’s being addressed.
He turns and sees a sulky-looking eighteen-year-old. He recognizes
her (she served him his meal the previous evening). “Yes,” he replies.
“I’m a doctor. How did you know that?”
She tells him that her nerves are bad, that she needs help.
Sometimes she feels like she can’t breathe, and there’s a hammering in
her head. And sometimes something very disturbing happens. She sees
things–including a face that fills her with horror. . . .
Well, do you want to know what happens next? I’d be surprised if
you didn’t.
We have here all the ingredients of an engaging thriller: an isolated
setting, a strange meeting, and a disconcerting confession.
So where does this particular opening scene come from? A littleknown
work by one of the queens of crime fiction? A lost reel of an
early Hitchcock film, perhaps? Neither. It is in fact a faithful summary
of the first few pages of Katharina by Sigmund Freud, also known as
case study number four in his Studies on Hysteria, co-authored with Josef
Breuer and published in 1895.
It is generally agreed that the detective thriller is anineteenthcentury
invention, perfected by the holy trinity of Collins, Poe, and
(most importantly) Conan Doyle; however, the genre would have
been quite different had it not been for the oblique influence of psychoanalysis.
The psychological thriller often pays close attention to
personal history–childhood experiences, relationships, and significant
life events–in fact, the very same things that any self-respecting
therapist would want to know about. These days it’s almost impossible
to think of the term “thriller” without mentally inserting the prefix
“psychological.”
So how did this happen? How did Freud’s work come to influence
the development of an entire literary genre? The answer is quite simple.
He had some help–and that help came from the American film
industry.
Now it has to be said that Freud didn’t like America. After visiting
America, he wrote: “I am very glad I am away from it, and even more
that I don’t have to live there.” He believed that American food had
given him a gastrointestinal illness, and that his short stay in America
had caused his handwriting to deteriorate. His anti-American sentiments
finally culminated with his famous remark that he considered
America to be “a gigantic mistake.”
Be that as it may, although Freud didn’t like America, America
liked Freud. In fact, America loved him. And nowhere in America was
Freud more loved than in Hollywood.
The special relationship between the film industry and psychoanalysis
began in the 1930s, when many émigré analysts–fleeing
from the Nazis–settled on the West Coast. Entering analysis became
very fashionable among the studio elite, and Hollywood soon
acquired the sobriquet “couch canyon.” Dr. Ralph Greenson, for
example–a well-known Hollywood analyst–had a patient list that
included the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis,
and Vivien Leigh. And among the many Hollywood directors who
succumbed to Freud’s influence was Alfred Hitchcock, whose thrillers
were much more psychological than any that had been filmed before.
In one of his films Freud actually makes an appearance–well, more or
less. I am thinking here of Spellbound, released in 1945, and based on
Francis Beedings’s crime novel The House of Dr. Edwardes.
The producer of Spellbound, David O. Selznick, was himself in
psychoanalysis–as were most of his family–and so enthusiastic was
he about Freud’s ideas that he recruited his own analyst to help him
vet the script. Hitchcock’s film has everything we expect from a psychological
thriller: a clinical setting, a murder, a man who has lost his
memory, a dream sequence, and a sinewy plot that twists and turns
toward a dramatic climax. That this film owes a large debt to psychoanalysis
is made absolutely clear when a character appears who is–in
all but name–Sigmund Freud: a wise old doctor with a beard, glasses,
and a fantastically hammy Viennese accent.
Since Hitchcock’s time, authors and screenwriters have had much
fun playing with the resonances that exist between psychoanalysis and
detection. This kind of writing reached its apotheosis in 1975 with the
publication of Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, a novel in
which Freud and Sherlock Holmes are brought together to solve the
same case.
The relationship between psychoanalysis and detection was not
lost on Freud. In his Introductory Lectures, for example, there is a passage
in which he stresses how both the detective and the psychoanalyst depend
on accumulating piecemeal evidence that usually arrives in the
form of small and apparently inconsequential clues.

If you were a detective engaged in tracing a murder, would you expect to find that the murderer had left his photograph behind at the place of the crime, with his address attached? Or would you not necessarily have to be satisfied with comparatively slight and obscure traces of the person you were in search of? So do not let us underestimate small indications; by their help we may succeed in getting on the track of something
bigger.

Later in the same series of lectures, Freud blurs the boundary between
psychoanalysis and detection even further. He goes beyond pointing
out that psychoanalysis and detection are similar enterprises and suggests
that psychoanalytic techniques might actually be used to aid detection.
Freud describes the case of a real murderer who acquired highly
dangerous pathogenic organisms from scientific institutes by pretending
to be a bacteriologist. The murderer then used these stolen cultures
to fatally infect his victims. On one occasion, he audaciously wrote a
letter to the director of one of these scientific institutes, complaining
that the cultures he had been given were ineffective. But the letter
contained a Freudian slip–an unconsciously performed blunder.
Instead of writing in my experiments on mice or guinea pigs, the murderer
wrote in my experiments on men. Freud notes that the institute director–
not being conversant with psychoanalysis–was happy to overlook
such a telling error.
In a little-known paper called Psychoanalysis and the Ascertaining of
Truth in Courts of Law,
Freud is even more confident that psychoanalytic
techniques might be used in the service of detection. He writes:
In both [psychoanalysis and law] we are concerned with a
secret, with something hidden. . . . In the case of the criminal it
is a secret which he knows he hides from you, but in the case of
the hysteric it is a secret hidden from himself. . . . The task of
the therapeutist is, however, the same as the task of the judge;
he must discover the hidden psychic material. To do this we
have invented various methods of detection, some of which
lawyers are now going to imitate.
It is interesting that criminology and forensic science emerged at exactly
the same time as psychoanalysis. In 1893, Professor Hans Gross
(also Viennese) published the first handbook of criminal investigation,
a manual for detectives. It was the same year that Freud published
(with Josef Breuer) his first work on psychoanalysis: a “Preliminary
Communication,” On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena.
Freud, largely via Hollywood, wielded an extraordinary influence
on detective fiction. But to what extent is the reverse true?
We know that Freud was very widely read–and that he had
and Vivien Leigh. And among the many Hollywood directors who
succumbed to Freud’s influence was Alfred Hitchcock, whose thrillers
were much more psychological than any that had been filmed before.
In one of his films Freud actually makes an appearance–well, more or
less. I am thinking here of Spellbound, released in 1945, and based on
Francis Beedings’s crime novel The House of Dr. Edwardes.
The producer of Spellbound, David O. Selznick, was himself in
psychoanalysis–as were most of his family–and so enthusiastic was
he about Freud’s ideas that he recruited his own analyst to help him
vet the script. Hitchcock’s film has everything we expect from a psychological
thriller: a clinical setting, a murder, a man who has lost his
memory, a dream sequence, and a sinewy plot that twists and turns
toward a dramatic climax. That this film owes a large debt to psychoanalysis
is made absolutely clear when a character appears who is–in
all but name–Sigmund Freud: a wise old doctor with a beard, glasses,
and a fantastically hammy Viennese accent.
Since Hitchcock’s time, authors and screenwriters have had much
fun playing with the resonances that exist between psychoanalysis and
detection. This kind of writing reached its apotheosis in 1975 with the
publication of Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, a novel in
which Freud and Sherlock Holmes are brought together to solve the
same case.
The relationship between psychoanalysis and detection was not
lost on Freud. In his Introductory Lectures, for example, there is a passage
in which he stresses how both the detective and the psychoanalyst depend
on accumulating piecemeal evidence that usually arrives in the
form of small and apparently inconsequential clues.
If you were a detective engaged in tracing a murder, would
you expect to find that the murderer had left his photograph
behind at the place of the crime, with his address attached? Or
would you not necessarily have to be satisfied with comparatively
slight and obscure traces of the person you were in
search of? So do not let us underestimate small indications; by
their help we may succeed in getting on the track of something
bigger.
Later in the same series of lectures, Freud blurs the boundary between
psychoanalysis and detection even further. He goes beyond pointing
out that psychoanalysis and detection are similar enterprises and suggests
that psychoanalytic techniques might actually be used to aid detection.
Freud describes the case of a real murderer who acquired highly
dangerous pathogenic organisms from scientific institutes by pretending
to be a bacteriologist. The murderer then used these stolen cultures
to fatally infect his victims. On one occasion, he audaciously wrote a
letter to the director of one of these scientific institutes, complaining
that the cultures he had been given were ineffective. But the letter
contained a Freudian slip–an unconsciously performed blunder.
Instead of writing in my experiments on mice or guinea pigs, the murderer
wrote in my experiments on men. Freud notes that the institute director–
not being conversant with psychoanalysis–was happy to overlook
such a telling error.
In a little-known paper called Psychoanalysis and the Ascertaining of
Truth in Courts of Law,
Freud is even more confident that psychoanalytic
techniques might be used in the service of detection. He writes:
In both [psychoanalysis and law] we are concerned with a
secret, with something hidden. . . . In the case of the criminal it
is a secret which he knows he hides from you, but in the case of
the hysteric it is a secret hidden from himself. . . . The task of
the therapeutist is, however, the same as the task of the judge;
he must discover the hidden psychic material. To do this we
have invented various methods of detection, some of which
lawyers are now going to imitate.
It is interesting that criminology and forensic science emerged at exactly
the same time as psychoanalysis. In 1893, Professor Hans Gross
(also Viennese) published the first handbook of criminal investigation,
a manual for detectives. It was the same year that Freud published
(with Josef Breuer) his first work on psychoanalysis: a “Preliminary
Communication,” On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena.
Freud, largely via Hollywood, wielded an extraordinary influence
on detective fiction. But to what extent is the reverse true?
We know that Freud was very widely read–and that he had
lished a memoir in 1971, which contains a very interesting aside. The
two men had been discussing literature, and Freud had expressed his
admiration for several writers, most of them acknowledged masters
and writers of the first magnitude, such as Dostoevsky. However, by
the Wolfman’s reckoning at least, a lesser talent seemed to have gatecrashed
Freud’s literary pantheon.
Once we happened to speak of Conan Doyle and his creation,
Sherlock Holmes. I had thought that Freud would have
no use for this type of light reading matter, and was surprised to
find that this was not at all the case and that Freud had read
this author attentively. The fact that circumstantial evidence
is useful in psychoanalysis when reconstructing a childhood
history may explain Freud’s interest in this type of literature.
The Wolfman’s final observation is clearly correct. Crimes are like
symptoms, and the psychoanalyst and detective are similar creatures.
Both scrutinize circumstantial evidence, both reconstruct histories,
and both seek to establish an ultimate cause.
If we broaden our definition of what might legitimately be called
detective fiction and permit ourselves to consider works written even
before Hoffmann’s Mademoiselle de Scudéry, then we encounter a story
that, without doubt, exerted a profound influence on Freud and the
development of psychoanalysis. It is a story that British writer Christopher
Booker has called the greatest “whodunit” in all literature. It is
one of the earliest stories of murder and detection ever recorded and
has a twist in the tale that still has the power to shock: Oedipus Rex by
Sophocles.
When we meet Oedipus, there is a curse on his country. He is told
that this curse will not be lifted until he has discovered the identity of
the man who murdered his predecessor: King Laius, the former husband of Oedipus’s new wife, Jocasta. Oedipus follows clue after clue until his investigation leads him inexorably to a terrible conclusion.
It was he, Oedipus, who killed the king. Laius was his father and Oedipus is now married to his own mother.
This classic tragedy is also an ancient detective story and gave its
name to the cornerstone of psychoanalytic theory–the much mooted
(and even more misunderstood) Oedipus complex–a group of largely
unconscious ideas and feelings concerning wishes to possess the parent
of the opposite sex and eliminate the parent of the same sex.
I think there is something very satisfying about the relationship
between psychoanalysis and detective fiction. Freud influenced the
course of detective fiction, but by the same token, detective fiction (in
its broadest possible sense) also influenced Freud. And at a deeper
level, psychoanalysis–a process that resembles detective work–
discovers a “whodunit” buried in the depths of every human psyche.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS:
THE CURIOUS CASE OF PROFESSOR SIGMUND F. AND DETECTIVE FICTION

Summertime–the Austrian Alps: A middle-aged doctor, wishing to forget medicine, turns off the beaten track and begins a strenuous climb. When he reaches the summit, he sits and contemplates the distant prospect. Suddenly he hears a voice.
“Are you a doctor?”
He is not alone. At first, he can’t believe that he’s being addressed.
He turns and sees a sulky-looking eighteen-year-old. He recognizes her (she served him his meal the previous evening). “Yes,” he replies.
“I’m a doctor. How did you know that?”
She tells him that her nerves are bad, that she needs help.
Sometimes she feels like she can’t breathe, and there’s a hammering in her head. And sometimes something very disturbing happens. She sees things–including a face that fills her with horror. . . .
Well, do you want to know what happens next? I’d be surprised if you didn’t.
We have here all the ingredients of an engaging thriller: an isolated setting, a strange meeting, and a disconcerting confession.
So where does this particular opening scene come from? A littleknown work by one of the queens of crime fiction? A lost reel of an early Hitchcock film, perhaps? Neither. It is in fact a faithful summary of the first few pages of Katharina by Sigmund Freud, also known as case study number four in his Studies on Hysteria, co-authored with Josef
Breuer and published in 1895.
It is generally agreed that the detective thriller is a nineteenthcentury invention, perfected by the holy trinity of Collins, Poe, and
(most importantly) Conan Doyle; however, the genre would have been quite different had it not been for the oblique influence of psychoanalysis.
The psychological thriller often pays close attention to personal history–childhood experiences, relationships, and significant life events–in fact, the very same things that any self-respecting therapist would want to know about. These days it’s almost impossible to think of the term “thriller” without mentally inserting the prefix
“psychological.”
So how did this happen? How did Freud’s work come to influence the development of an entire literary genre? The answer is quite simple.
He had some help–and that help came from the American film industry.
Now it has to be said that Freud didn’t like America. After visiting
America, he wrote: “I am very glad I am away from it, and even more that I don’t have to live there.” He believed that American food had given him a gastrointestinal illness, and that his short stay in America had caused his handwriting to deteriorate. His anti-American sentiments finally culminated with his famous remark that he considered
America to be “a gigantic mistake.”
Be that as it may, although Freud didn’t like America, America liked Freud. In fact, America loved him. And nowhere in America was
Freud more loved than in Hollywood.
The special relationship between the film industry and psychoanalysis began in the 1930s, when many émigré analysts–fleeing from the Nazis–settled on the West Coast. Entering analysis became very fashionable among the studio elite, and Hollywood soon acquired the sobriquet “couch canyon.” Dr. Ralph Greenson, for example–a well-known Hollywood analyst–had a patient list that included the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis,
and Vivien Leigh. And among the many Hollywood directors who succumbed to Freud’s influence was Alfred Hitchcock, whose thrillers were much more psychological than any that had been filmed before.
In one of his films Freud actually makes an appearance–well, more or less. I am thinking here of Spellbound, released in 1945, and based on
Francis Beedings’s crime novel The House of Dr. Edwardes.
The producer of Spellbound, David O. Selznick, was himself in psychoanalysis–as were most of his family–and so enthusiastic was he about Freud’s ideas that he recruited his own analyst to help him vet the script. Hitchcock’s film has everything we expect from a psychological thriller: a clinical setting, a murder, a man who has lost his memory, a dream sequence, and a sinewy plot that twists and turns toward a dramatic climax. That this film owes a large debt to psychoanalysis is made absolutely clear when a character appears who is–in all but name–Sigmund Freud: a wise old doctor with a beard, glasses,
and a fantastically hammy Viennese accent.
Since Hitchcock’s time, authors and screenwriters have had much fun playing with the resonances that exist between psychoanalysis and detection. This kind of writing reached its apotheosis in 1975 with the publication of Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, a novel in which Freud and Sherlock Holmes are brought together to solve the same case.
The relationship between psychoanalysis and detection was not lost on Freud. In his Introductory Lectures, for example, there is a passage in which he stresses how both the detective and the psychoanalyst depend on accumulating piecemeal evidence that usually arrives in the form of small and apparently inconsequential clues.

If you were a detective engaged in tracing a murder, would you expect to find that the murderer had left his photograph behind at the place of the crime, with his address attached? Or would you not necessarily have to be satisfied with comparatively slight and obscure traces of the person you were in search of? So do not let us underestimate small indications; by their help we may succeed in getting on the track of something bigger.

Later in the same series of lectures, Freud blurs the boundary between psychoanalysis and detection even further. He goes beyond pointing out that psychoanalysis and detection are similar enterprises and suggests that psychoanalytic techniques might actually be used to aid detection.
Freud describes the case of a real murderer who acquired highly dangerous pathogenic organisms from scientific institutes by pretending to be a bacteriologist. The murderer then used these stolen cultures to fatally infect his victims. On one occasion, he audaciously wrote a letter to the director of one of these scientific institutes, complaining that the cultures he had been given were ineffective. But the letter contained a Freudian slip–an unconsciously performed blunder.
Instead of writing in my experiments on mice or guinea pigs, the murderer wrote in my experiments on men. Freud notes that the institute director–
not being conversant with psychoanalysis–was happy to overlook such a telling error.
In a little-known paper called Psychoanalysis and the Ascertaining of
Truth in Courts of Law,
Freud is even more confident that psychoanalytic techniques might be used in the service of detection. He writes:
In both [psychoanalysis and law] we are concerned with a secret, with something hidden. . . . In the case of the criminal it is a secret which he knows he hides from you, but in the case of the hysteric it is a secret hidden from himself. . . . The task of the therapeutist is, however, the same as the task of the judge;
he must discover the hidden psychic material. To do this we have invented various methods of detection, some of which lawyers are now going to imitate.
It is interesting that criminology and forensic science emerged at exactly the same time as psychoanalysis. In 1893, Professor Hans Gross
(also Viennese) published the first handbook of criminal investigation,
a manual for detectives. It was the same year that Freud published
(with Josef Breuer) his first work on psychoanalysis: a “Preliminary
Communication,” On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena.
Freud, largely via Hollywood, wielded an extraordinary influence on detective fiction. But to what extent is the reverse true?
We know that Freud was very widely read–and that he had and Vivien Leigh. And among the many Hollywood directors who succumbed to Freud’s influence was Alfred Hitchcock, whose thrillers were much more psychological than any that had been filmed before.
In one of his films Freud actually makes an appearance–well, more or less. I am thinking here of Spellbound, released in 1945, and based on
Francis Beedings’s crime novel The House of Dr. Edwardes.
The producer of Spellbound, David O. Selznick, was himself in psychoanalysis–as were most of his family–and so enthusiastic was he about Freud’s ideas that he recruited his own analyst to help him vet the script. Hitchcock’s film has everything we expect from a psychological thriller: a clinical setting, a murder, a man who has lost his memory, a dream sequence, and a sinewy plot that twists and turns toward a dramatic climax. That this film owes a large debt to psychoanalysis is made absolutely clear when a character appears who is–in all but name–Sigmund Freud: a wise old doctor with a beard, glasses,
and a fantastically hammy Viennese accent.
Since Hitchcock’s time, authors and screenwriters have had much fun playing with the resonances that exist between psychoanalysis and detection. This kind of writing reached its apotheosis in 1975 with the publication of Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, a novel in which Freud and Sherlock Holmes are brought together to solve the same case.
The relationship between psychoanalysis and detection was not lost on Freud. In his Introductory Lectures, for example, there is a passage in which he stresses how both the detective and the psychoanalyst depend on accumulating piecemeal evidence that usually arrives in the form of small and apparently inconsequential clues.
If you were a detective engaged in tracing a murder, would you expect to find that the murderer had left his photograph behind at the place of the crime, with his address attached? Or would you not necessarily have to be satisfied with comparatively slight and obscure traces of the person you were in search of? So do not let us underestimate small indications; by their help we may succeed in getting on the track of something bigger.
Later in the same series of lectures, Freud blurs the boundary between psychoanalysis and detection even further. He goes beyond pointing out that psychoanalysis and detection are similar enterprises and suggests that psychoanalytic techniques might actually be used to aid detection.
Freud describes the case of a real murderer who acquired highly dangerous pathogenic organisms from scientific institutes by pretending to be a bacteriologist. The murderer then used these stolen cultures to fatally infect his victims. On one occasion, he audaciously wrote a letter to the director of one of these scientific institutes, complaining that the cultures he had been given were ineffective. But the letter contained a Freudian slip–an unconsciously performed blunder.
Instead of writing in my experiments on mice or guinea pigs, the murderer wrote in my experiments on men. Freud notes that the institute director–
not being conversant with psychoanalysis–was happy to overlook such a telling error.
In a little-known paper called Psychoanalysis and the Ascertaining of
Truth in Courts of Law,
Freud is even more confident that psychoanalytic techniques might be used in the service of detection. He writes:
In both [psychoanalysis and law] we are concerned with a secret, with something hidden. . . . In the case of the criminal it is a secret which he knows he hides from you, but in the case of the hysteric it is a secret hidden from himself. . . . The task of the therapeutist is, however, the same as the task of the judge;
he must discover the hidden psychic material. To do this we have invented various methods of detection, some of which lawyers are now going to imitate.
It is interesting that criminology and forensic science emerged at exactly the same time as psychoanalysis. In 1893, Professor Hans Gross
(also Viennese) published the first handbook of criminal investigation,
a manual for detectives. It was the same year that Freud published
(with Josef Breuer) his first work on psychoanalysis: a “Preliminary
Communication,” On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena.
Freud, largely via Hollywood, wielded an extraordinary influence on detective fiction. But to what extent is the reverse true?
We know that Freud was very widely read–and that he had lished a memoir in 1971, which contains a very interesting aside. The two men had been discussing literature, and Freud had expressed his admiration for several writers, most of them acknowledged masters and writers of the first magnitude, such as Dostoevsky. However, by the Wolfman’s reckoning at least, a lesser talent seemed to have gatecrashed
Freud’s literary pantheon.
Once we happened to speak of Conan Doyle and his creation,
Sherlock Holmes. I had thought that Freud would have no use for this type of light reading matter, and was surprised to find that this was not at all the case and that Freud had read this author attentively. The fact that circumstantial evidence is useful in psychoanalysis when reconstructing a childhood history may explain Freud’s interest in this type of literature.
The Wolfman’s final observation is clearly correct. Crimes are like symptoms, and the psychoanalyst and detective are similar creatures.
Both scrutinize circumstantial evidence, both reconstruct histories,
and both seek to establish an ultimate cause.
If we broaden our definition of what might legitimately be called detective fiction and permit ourselves to consider works written even before Hoffmann’s Mademoiselle de Scudéry, then we encounter a story that, without doubt, exerted a profound influence on Freud and the development of psychoanalysis. It is a story that British writer Christopher
Booker has called the greatest “whodunit” in all literature. It is one of the earliest stories of murder and detection ever recorded and has a twist in the tale that still has the power to shock: Oedipus Rex by
Sophocles.
When we meet Oedipus, there is a curse on his country. He is told that this curse will not be lifted until he has discovered the identity of the man who murdered his predecessor: King Laius, the former husband of Oedipus’s new wife, Jocasta. Oedipus follows clue after clue until his investigation leads him inexorably to a terrible conclusion.
It was he, Oedipus, who killed the king. Laius was his father and Oedipus is now married to his own mother.
This classic tragedy is also an ancient detective story and gave its name to the cornerstone of psychoanalytic theory–the much mooted
(and even more misunderstood) Oedipus complex–a group of largely unconscious ideas and feelings concerning wishes to possess the parent of the opposite sex and eliminate the parent of the same sex.
I think there is something very satisfying about the relationship between psychoanalysis and detective fiction. Freud influenced the course of detective fiction, but by the same token, detective fiction (in its broadest possible sense) also influenced Freud. And at a deeper level, psychoanalysis–a process that resembles detective work–
discovers a “whodunit” buried in the depths of every human psyche.

Read More Show Less

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2013

    This is the first of the Max Liebermann's series and yet I am un

    This is the first of the Max Liebermann's series and yet I am unable to purchase in Nook format. Very very intriguing, much like the story itself, no doubt !

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  • Posted July 2, 2009

    Great example of turn of the century historical fiction.

    Wonderful, smart read. Fans of historical fiction and intelligent crime novels will definitely find this novel to be a great read. An easy to follow story line without too many paths that could make a reader have to "check back" in the story makes this book one that a reader will want to get back to as soon as they can.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2009

    Nice journey into the past.

    I really enjoyed this novel. Great background and setting with interesting historical detail.

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  • Posted June 11, 2009

    Mystery

    Very well developed characters in a setting I am not familiar with: 1930's Vienna. An excellent mystery. While I don't agree with the author's theology, the story was interesting and I highly recommend it.

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  • Posted March 18, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A nice mystery for those who love Vienna

    If you liked the Third Man with its twists and intrigues featuring the great ferris wheel of Vienna, A Death in Venice is likely to please you. Set at the eve of the Hapsburg downfall, we have what appears to be an impossible murder, a clever detective, a singing psychoanalyst, a host of suspects, some romance, a possible ghost, Freud telling Jewish jokes, and lots of stops to drink coffee and taste the best of Vienna pastry. Geschmuck Gut! The ferris wheel is also featured and (oddly enough) part of the solution to the crime will be familar to anyone who is a fan of the TV show, Myth Busters, which once performed the experiment described near the end of the book that solves the crime. What is also interesting is that the solution is not discovered either by the ingenious detective nor by the singing psychoanalyst but by a potential love interest to our hero doctor.
    We get a strong flavor of Viennese culture. There is not only the food and drink, but much discussion of music, treatment of mental heath patients (the author is a mental health professional), and even the beginings of the sinister forces of anti-Jewish politics on the rise. The book is a great read. I think you will enjoy it.

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  • Posted January 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An elegant mystery that will appeal to lovers of both history and historical fiction!

    Turn of the century Vienna ¿ at the time, the social, cultural and scientific centre of a Europe rapidly entering the modern world of the twentieth century ¿ serves as the setting for Frank Tallis¿ debut historical mystery ¿ a provocative, head-scratching locked room mystery. The very deceased and brutally murdered body of the colourful and beautiful medium Fräulein Löwenstein has been found in her apartments ¿ securely locked and bolted from the inside. The puzzle deepens and becomes even more cryptic as an autopsy reveals a gunshot wound to the heart. There is a very clear entrance wound but there is no exit wound and there is also no bullet to be found in her body.<BR/><BR/>Detective Oskar Rheinhardt, an ardent fan of the newest applications of criminology and psychology, frequently finds himself at odds with his superiors who believe in a more dogged persevering application of older tried and true procedures in the solution of crimes. Rheinhardt and his companion, Max Liebermann, a physician who is also exploring the cutting edge possibilities of his own area of expertise - the developing science of psychoanalysis ¿ believe the murderer can be found among the small group of somewhat eccentric folks that form Fräulein Löwenstein¿s regular séance circle.<BR/><BR/>To be sure, ¿A Death in Vienna¿ is a very workmanlike, well-constructed and completely entertaining locked room murder mystery but it is also so very much more. It is a wonderfully informative essay on some of the advances in modern medicine that were being developed at that time such as shock therapy, psychoanalysis, blood typing and blood transfusion.<BR/><BR/>It is an enthusiastic travelogue of what is arguably the most beautiful, charming and exciting city in all of Europe ¿ the coffee shops, the scrumptious, tantalizing pastries, the Ringstrasse, the Opera House and the Musikverein, Karlskirche and Stephansdom, the Riesenrad ferris wheel and Prater Park.<BR/><BR/>Through Tallis¿ wonderful narrative skills, one can almost imagine hearing the romantic music of the time and admiring its flamboyant composers who were such an important part of the Viennese social and cultural scene at the time ¿ Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven, Schubert and, in particular, the contentious and controversial Gustav Mahler, who had held the post of the Director of the Vienna Opera since 1897.<BR/><BR/>Tallis accurately portrays the breathless, often scandalized reaction of the Viennese artistic community to Gustav Klimt¿s racy and often overtly sexual style of painting that was, in only a few years time, to form the core of the Viennese Secessionist movement now celebrated in the Belvedere Palace.<BR/><BR/>Last but not least, he breathes life into his complex characters who are so credible, so human, so complete and so well-crafted as to turn other more experience and vastly more celebrated authors completely green with envy. <BR/><BR/>For once, I completely agree with some of the marketing information on the cover. The New York Times Book Review called it an ¿elegant historical mystery ¿ stylishly presented and intelligently resolved.¿ I couldn¿t agree more. Highly recommended.<BR/><BR/>Paul Weiss

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    terrific historical police procedural

    At the turn of the twentieth century, Vienna is the hot spot of the new controversial science because its founder Sigmund Freud works there. A colleague of Freud, psychoanalyst Max Lieberman works with the hysterical, but also assists his friend his friend Police Detective Oskar Rheinhardt on investigations when requested. --- Oskar asks Max to help him with a difficult case that on the surface seems obvious. A beautiful medium, Fraulein Lowenstein, apparently shot herself in her heart inside a locked room with a suicide note near her body simple except there is no gun at the scene nor even more enigmatic a bullet in her corpse. Since the death occurred on a day she was to conduct a séance, Max questions her servants and clients. He quickly concludes that several people actually had motives, but the opportunity seems beyond their possibility. As Oskar and Max struggle with the investigation, one of Lowenstein¿s clients is murdered in his sleep inside a locked room. The motives and means once again are obvious, but how someone made the opportunity happen remains beyond the understanding of the two sleuths. --- This is a terrific historical police procedural in which the intellectual atmosphere of Vienna circa 2000 is alive and in some ways the main character of the delightful tale though Max and Oskar are fully developed authentic protagonists. The lead pair struggles with uncovering the how to a murder mystery, but in doing so also add to the ambiance that controls the entire wonderful plot. Frank Tallis provides a powerful early twentieth century whodunit that will have readers waltzing with the investigators as they dance around Vienna seeking to identify the culprit before another homicide takes place. --- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted April 3, 2010

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    Posted September 27, 2009

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    Posted October 22, 2008

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    Posted March 13, 2009

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    Posted September 25, 2010

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