Edgar winner Bayer (The Dream of Broken Horses, 2002, etc.) continues his romance with psychoanalysis with a riff on Lou Andreas-Salomé’s persona as analyst and femme fatale.
In 1882, three people who probably should have known better—physician Paul Rée, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and 21-year-old Lou Andreas-Salomé—memorialize their decision to live together in an intellectual ménage à trois with a photo showing the two men pulling a cart with the young Lou, who brandishes a twig fashioned into a whip. Years later, a young painter offers a now middle-aged Frau Lou, who’s come to Vienna to study with Freud, a watercolor based on the photo as a token of his admiration. Still later—in the present day—California dominatrix Chantal Desforges creates her own version of the trio with two naked, hooded young men pulling her in a chariot in the Oakland loft she calls the Eagle’s Nest. Into this simmering psychodrama drops Tess Berenson, a performance artist who loves the light, airy loft so much that she doesn’t mind the jail cell built into its corner. While she’s not studying muay thai martial arts or rehearsing Recital, a performance piece about a grande dame carried away by her own sense of entitlement, she learns all she can about Chantal. Her downstairs neighbor, painter Josh Garske, knows lots about Chantal’s work, since he monitored some of her sessions on a hidden camera. And Mistress Lynx, a fellow domme, fills Tess in on the personal side of Chantal’s life. But when Chantal turns up dead, Tess’ interest verges on obsession. Does the solution to Chantal’s murder lie in Oakland—or do its roots date back nearly 150 years to Vienna?
Nazis, sadomasochism, and psychoanalysis always provide a heady mix, and a little murder thrown in pushes Bayer’s latest into the radioactive zone.