Expatriate American literati and the heavyweights of psychoanalysis collide in this spirited novel set in the dreamy streets of fin de siäcle Vienna—the latest extravaganza from Hill (The Eleven Million Mile High Dancer, 1985, etc.). Edith Wharton is trying to save Henry James from Sigmund Freud in one of the many paths taken by this complex mystery tale. Believing the doctor's theories on the childhood origins of female hysteria to be so much poppycock, Mrs. Wharton inadvertently finds herself in the middle of a serial killer's rampage, which has the anti-Semites of Vienna, who believe the murders to be Jewish ritual killings, in an uproar. A famous detective is summoned from Paris when the home of Dr. Freud becomes the latest murder site and the situation becomes critical: the corpse has disappeared. The father of psychoanalysis, the formidable Mrs. Wharton, and the faltering Henry James, who feels guilty that a dear friend in Venice has killed herself, all become suspects, along with the beautiful Countess von Gerzl, with whom the debonair Inspector promptly begins a passionate affair. Add to this cast of luminaries a visiting all-American family, cousins of the Countess, which consists of thoroughly middle-class parents, three precocious adolescents, and their radically feminist aunt, and cameo appearances by Jung and his most famous patient, Sabina Spielrein, and the narrative becomes busy indeed—so much so that the threat represented by the murderer as he stalks the Inspector seems merely an afterthought. Rich and flavorful, with the period's ferment of ideas ably represented—but largely lacking the essential dramatic ingredients on which the whodunit depends.
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