Immensely entertaining, and very clever indeed.


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 Löwenstein, 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 Löwenstein 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 séances. These include handsome young stage magician (and cad) Otto Braun, the late Charlotte’s lover and probably criminal accomplice; wealthy banker Heinrich Hölderlin and his breathless wife Juno; romantically hopeful, hopelessly ingenuous seamstress Natalie Heck; suspiciously neurotic locksmith Karl Uberhorst; no-account Hungarian playboy Count Zoltán Záborszky; politically ambitious businessman Hans Brückmuller—oh, and nearly every other denizen of early-20th-century Viennese café society. A second murder and a séance arranged for investigative 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.

Pub Date: March 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-8021-1815-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

Did you like this book?

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?