Immensely entertaining, and very clever indeed.

A DEATH IN VIENNA

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

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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A top-notch psychological thriller.

COLD COLD HEART

In Hoag’s (The 9th Girl, 2013, etc.) latest, talented young newscaster Dana Nolan is left to navigate a psychological maze after escaping a serial killer.

While recuperating at home in Shelby Mills, Indiana, Dana meets her former high school classmates John Villante and Tim Carver. Football hero Tim is ashamed of flunking out of West Point, and now he’s a sheriff’s deputy. After Iraq and Afghanistan tours, John’s home with PTSD, "angry and bitter and dark." Dana survived abduction by serial killer Doc Holiday, but she still suffers from the gruesome attack by "the man who ruined her life, destroyed her career, shattered her sense of self, damaged her brain and her face." What binds the trio is their friend Casey Grant, who's been missing five years, perhaps also a Holiday victim, even if "[t]he odds against that kind of coincidence had to be astronomical." Hoag’s first 100 pages are a gut-wrenching dissection of the aftereffects of traumatic brain injury: Dana is plagued by "[f]ear, panic, grief, and anger" and haunted by fractured memories and nightmares. "Before Dana had believed in the inherent good in people. After Dana knew firsthand their capacity for evil." Impulsive and paranoid, Dana obsesses over linking Casey’s disappearance to Holiday, with her misfiring brain convincing her that "finding the truth about what had happened to Casey [was] her chance of redemption." But then Hoag tosses suspects into the narrative faster than Dana can count: Roger Mercer, Dana’s self-absorbed state senator stepfather; Mack Villante, who left son John with "no memories of his father that didn’t include drunkenness and cruelty"; even Hardy, the hard-bitten, cancer-stricken detective who investigated Casey’s disappearance. Tense, tightly woven, with every minor character, from Dana’s fiercely protective aunt to Mercer’s pudgy campaign chief, ratcheting up the tension, Hoag’s narrative explodes with an unexpected but believable conclusion.

A top-notch psychological thriller.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-525-95454-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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