Friday, March 10, 2023


Vienna Blood season 3: Max Liebermann played by Matthew Beard. (Image from

The third season of the  TV series Vienna Blood was recently completed, and I enjoyed it very much. The mysteries are well-constructed, the characters are fascinating, the costumes and interiors represent the beautiful style of Vienna from 1902 to 1908, and it's all remarkable. The series is based on the books by British author Frank Tallis. I read one or two of them a few years ago, and I've gone back to them now. I especially like Max and his fiancee Clara Weiss: so vivid!

The novels (obviously) offer much more detail than the TV series, and I just love the accurate portrayal of the famous and infamous people and events of the era. Tallis uses many actual historic figures and locations for the fictional murder mysteries solved by Liebermann and Oskar Rheinhardt, his associate on the police force. Each book contains an amazing amount of historical research; the second novel, Vienna Blood, for example, concerns a secret society that was an important precursor to the Nazis, and later an influence on Hitler. Throughout the novels, the rise of antisemitism and racial hatred during that era is treated in a very expert way. I learned a lot!

Viennese Cuisine

Vienna was -- and still is -- a city known for fantastic coffee houses with some of the world's best pastry, as well as for generally wonderful cuisine. Tallis includes many very tempting descriptions of the treats that the characters share. Here are a few of the numerous examples:

A waiter arrived with a tray full of coffee and cakes: a Viennese walnut-and-apple torte topped with waves of cream and sprinkled with cinnamon and silver pearls, some poppy seed strudel, and a thick spongy wedge of guglhupf. (Vienna Blood, p. 128).

Liebermann’s attention was recaptured by the waiter, who had returned with his coffee and cake. The Mozart torte was a colorful checkered arrangement of chocolate and pistachio sponge, on top of which was a marzipan coin bearing the profile of the great composer. Liebermann took a mouthful, found it a little too sweet, and decided that the time might pass just as quickly with a cigar. (Vienna Blood, pp. 244-245).

The first course of cabbage and raisin soup had been very filling, but not sufficiently so to deter Stefan Kanner from insisting that the waiter should bring large helpings of Wiener schnitzel, Brussels sprouts, baked breaded tomatoes, and innviertler speckknödel (diced bacon mixed with chopped parsley, wrapped in dough and cooked in salted water). (Vienna Blood, p. 422). 

They had dined on caviar, sardines, goose liver, and pheasant’s eggs in aspic, washed down with two bottles of Asti and followed by the sweetest pineapple. Coffee was served with cognac pastilles, each delicately wrapped in silver foil. They had intended to leave an hour earlier, but somehow satiety, slivovitz and cigars kept them seated. None of the other tables were occupied, and a hovering waiter suggested that they had overstayed their welcome. (A Death in Vienna, p. 340). 

Mendel looked enviously at his son’s gateau, a large glazed chocolate sponge cake shaped like a saddle of deer, filled with apricot jam and studded with almonds. His own order was less arresting, being a simple pastry filled with sweet curd cheese. (A Death in Vienna, p. 11). 

Did I go overboard in quoting all these delectable passages? I'd love to try ANY of them! To think that most tourists in Vienna just try the Sacher Torte and then give up! 

Vienna, City of Art and Culture

Beyond food,  I've collected a few bits of Viennese cultural richness from the novels -- remember, Vienna at that time was a global center of art, literature, medicine, and music, not the minor European city that it is today.

The Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt, Secession Building, Vienna (1902)

Max and Clara attend the Beethoven exposition at the Secession building:

As Liebermann’s eyes became accustomed to Klimt’s over- whelming carousel of colours, he was able to appreciate a cast of characters who gradually emerged as distinct individuals. Emaciated, naked figures appealed to a knight in armour; a monstrous winged ape squatted amid a crowd of disturbing death’s heads and sirens: and a man and a woman – their bodies pressed together – kissed below a choir of angelic faces. Some parts of the fresco seemed cool and still, while others writhed with activity, every inch alive with movement: ripples, waves, swirls and eddies – vibrant detail, enlivened by the shimmer of appliqué mirrors. (Frank Tallis. A Death in Vienna, p. 170). 


At the Vienna Opera where Max Liebermann goes to "The Magic Flute"
under the direction of Gustav Mahler.
Max, Clara, and her family at the famous Vienna Opera:

He took her arm and they entered the building. After visiting the cloakroom and purchasing their programs, the Weiss family assembled at the foot of the grand marble staircase. Liebermann looked up into the vastness—the wide-open dizzying expanse above his head. It was so immense: the chandeliers and wall lights seemed like whole worlds, suns, planets, softly glowing in the void. Massive round arches surrounded the central space and, through these, other arches could be glimpsed. On tall square pillars stood seven statues representing personifications of architecture, sculpture, poetry, dance, art, music, and drama. They were like custodial gods, marshaling the glowing worlds through the infinite. And beyond the guardians, columns, and balustrades was an artificial sky of transverse vaulting, enlivened by the colors of shadowy frescoes—white, blue, and vermilion.

Liebermann was not a great lover of the opera. ... the music itself was usually not to his taste. He found it too rich, too excessive, too melodramatic. He much preferred the simplicity of lieder, the intimacy of a string quartet, or the abstract purity of a symphonic work. Even so, he was eager to hear The Magic Flute again. The reviews had been exceptionally positive. Even the critic Theodor Helm—in the traditionally anti-Semitic Deutsche Zeitung—had praised Director Mahler’s new production. The director had reduced the size of the orchestra and encouraged them to play in the style of a chamber group. Liebermann was convinced that he would find this treatment of the work particularly rewarding. (Frank Tallis. Vienna Blood, p. 228-229).


Liebermann, a physician, is a follower of Sigmund Freud, and belongs to the psychologists' study circle
which meets at Freud's home. This is an image of Freud's study from the Sigmund Freud Museum
in London, where it is preserved. (Freud moved to London when the Nazis drove him out of Vienna.)

The early 1900s in Vienna was a time of amazing innovation in design of everyday objects.
The Wiener Werkstätte was an offshoot of the Vienna Secession, an art movement founded in 1897.
Applied arts included the design of fascinating furniture, including chairs as shown in the photo above.
The character Max Liebermann was clearly a lover of the current modern style of design.

Blog post © 2023 mae sander. Images from advertisements and Wikipedia.


My name is Erika. said...

I don't know these books or this series, so thanks for sharing Mae. hugs-Erika

Jeanie said...

What a terrific post, Mae. I like this series but I always seem to end up coming in on episode two and never get caught up. I should just watch head to toe with streaming but so much to stream, so little time. The books sound very good -- I've never read them but maybe should give them a go. As for the rest of the post, wow. I love your research -- I know how much time posts like this take. Well done.

Iris Flavia said...

I don´t know this series, but interesting furniture and thank you, maybe Brussels sprouts this weekend :-)

anno said...

This sounds like a terrific series, and I very much appreciated the excerpts, artwork, and images of the interior design of the time that accompanied this post.

Those food descriptions, though... oh my! You need to hide those behind a jump link, with a warning that reading these might inspire a sudden impulse to travel to Vienna, or wreak havoc in the kitchen trying to duplicate these feasts, or simply drive a person to stanch their appetite with whatever -- potato chips & dip? -- is ready to hand.

eileeninmd said...


I will have to check out this series, the books and the show.
Have a great weekend!

Tina said...

We've not tried this series yet but it sounds so interesting. I lived in Vienna in the 1970's and loved it. The pastries were amazing, the parks and museums were fun and my exhusband was arrested in a local flea market while we were there. Apparently we needed a permit to sell our leather goods. Ha! I ought to have fled the country alone while I could :-)

Cindy said...

Nice post :)

ashok said...

Interesting post

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Pastries, art, coffee, literature, music---Vienna sounds like a paradise. Just the coffee alone would be enough to draw me there.

I'm glad the series is well-researched and is true to the time, and it's great that the books offer even more detail. My husband is the mystery-lover in our family, but he's gradually bringing me on board as well. Maybe we will try a few episodes.

shelleyrae @ book'd out said...

I’m not familiar with either the book series or the tv adaption, but I like mysteries so I’ll search for it on my streaming platforms.

Wishing you a great reading week

Elza Reads said...

I don't know these books or the series, but I am fascinated for sure! Will go and take a closer book now.

Thanks for sharing Mae!

Elza Reads

Vicki said...

First time I've heard about the series/show but it sounds interesting.

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

Thanks for sharing, I didn't know about Frank Tallis

Anne@HeadFullofBooks said...

Wouldn't it be lovely if we could time travel back in time when places like Vienna were at the top of culture/music/art. Though I've never been to Vienna in our time either. Guess I should check it out in modern times before partaking in time travel. Ha!

Marg said...

There's no such thing as over the top when it comes to food quotes!

When I was in Vienna many years ago it was weiner schnitzel, but it was very different from what I expected!!

Have a great week!