Century £12.99

Darkness Rising, By Frank Tallis

A Freudian PI returns in this historical thriller

The various elements that come together in the latest outing of Frank Tallis's psychoanalyst detective, Dr Max Liebermann, couldn't be more of the moment. Though it is set in a lovingly re-created Vienna of 1903 – Freud himself has a cameo – Darkness Rising weaves together the odd lifestyles of followers of the Kabbalah, the rise of anti-Semitism, its exploitation by ambitious politicians of the Right, and the clash between religion and science.

Liebermann is drawn by his loyal policeman friend, Oskar Rheinhardt, into an investigation of the murder and ritual decapitation of prominent anti-Semites in the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It is his familiarity with the newly-emerging insights offered by psychoanalysis that the authorities want to tap – similar to the way that Sue Johnston's Grace Foley assists Trevor Eve's DCI Boyd in the BBC's Waking the Dead.

His involvement with the murders also carries the very modern, secular Liebermann back into his own Jewish ancestry, and in particular to the legend, attached to an ancient synagogue in Prague, of a golem, a creature of supernatural powers who protected the Jewish ghetto from those who would attack it. Could such a monster be carrying out the Vienna murders? The superstitions of Liebermann's past come hard up against his scientific training as he entertains the possibility.

It is one of a series of juxtapositions that give this thriller some intellectual backbone. Tallis – a Harley Street psychologist and author of textbooks on the history of psychotherapy – punctuates the action, slightly clumsily, with Liebermann's exploration, in his diary, or in his head, of his own dreams and desires, notably for a cold, young Englishwoman who is one of his patients. The internal becomes external when Liebermann is then placed in a series of contrasting situations, all of which touch on different aspects of his personality. There are the gatherings he attends where devotees sit at Freud's feet to lap up his wisdom; the Jewish fraternity meetings he goes to with his traditional father; and the gatherings of radical young feminists determined to tackle poverty and (in another contemporary echo) the injustices visited on migrant sex workers.

The danger is that Liebermann becomes little more than an observer of his own varied life. Tallis's way of avoiding this is to put his hero under a real and imminent threat to his livelihood and ultimately his life – as a result of an incident at the hospital where he works, when he refuses permission for a Catholic priest to administer the last rites to a young nobleman dying from syphilis. It creates another stand-off – between medical ethics and religious principles.

If it's all sounding a bit too obvious in its construction, then that's because it is. Too many of the set pieces seem tailored to the message of the story, while contributing little to the pace required of a detective novel. It will be a challenge for the BBC team currently working on bringing Liebermann to the small screen. Thrillers can, of course, also be novels of ideas. Tallis, though, sets you thinking so much that you stop caring about whodunnit.

Click here to purchase this book

Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform