A Death in Vienna features detective Oskar Rheinhardt, who in 1902 Vienna is far ahead of his time in investigating techniques. On the one hand, he is the stereotypical police officer full of the requisite annoyance with his superiors and impatience with new ideas about the way to work a case. On the other hand, he is open-minded enough when he meets Dr. Max Liebermann, a proponent of the unusual and then little-known Dr. Sigmund Freud, who suggests utilizing psychological analyses of the case details of the nauseating murder that has the city frightened and confused.
With few words, Tallis makes even minor characters come alive, like Frau Matejka, the perfect old maid. His pacing of the story is by turns appropriately frenetic then plodding, as it must be in the solving of real-life criminal cases. The addition of the legendary Freud as a character is priceless, particularly with the bit about his writing a joke book. Just the image of the uptight analyst cracking wise adds a much-needed touch of humor to raise the storyline from being perpetually depressing - which it could be considering the subject matter.
The intertwining of science and the other worldly aspects of the story meld into an unexpected yet satisfying conclusion, which will bring readers to the conclusion that A Death in Vienna is an excellent read with a brilliant premise.