Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Death in Vienna by Frank Tallis

I came upon this series by chance and after reading the first book of five I’m off to the library to pick up the second book. Frank Tallis brings his professional skills as a psychologist into play when he sets the story in Vienna at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. That is the time of Freud and his revolutionary theories. It is also a time of the stirrings of enormous changes in Europe.

There are two protagonists—although this story is told primarily through the eyes of Max Lierbeman, a psychiatrist. Oskar, a police inspector and good friend of Max, often asks him for help or desires to consult with him about puzzling aspects of a case. The two men are good friends and their meetings usually take place at coffeehouses replete with strong coffee and delectably sounding pastries.

The case in review is the enigmatic murder of Fraulein Lowenstein who has been found inside a locked room in her home. What is perplexing is that while she has been shot in the heart no bullet is found nor is there an exit wound. The Fraulein was a spiritualist and some of her admirers, her circle of followers, suggest that she probed too deeply and unleashed “dark” spirits and those forces caused her death. Despite a suicide note the inspector does not think that her death was anything but murder.

It is the other story lines that add so much to Death in Vienna. Max’s romantic attachment and the disconnect the reader feels between his chosen and Max, the Anti-Semitism endemic at the time and the split between some of the methods employed by psychiatrists and the newer methodologies.

Mystery Challenge

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Crashing Through by Robert Kurson

At the age of three Mike May lost his sight. Being blind did not deter him from living his life fully--even when that meant taking incredible risks.

Mike's mother not only encouraged him, but at a time when educating a blind youngster in a sighted class was unheard of, she pursued that goal--and won.

With family backing and a spirit of insatiable curiosity Mike pursued life full tilt. That included trying things that would be frightening for a sighted person like skiing with a wild abandon down the hardest trails.

When an Opthamologist  informed him that he was a good candidate for revolutionary surgery to regain his sight he initially had doubts, but eventually opted to proceed. A successful surgery brought a series of set backs.

When someone hasn't seen since that early an age they will have visual processing deficits. Mike's depth perception was insufficient for navigating--he stumbled off curbs and walked into objects. He was bombarded with visual stimuli and no clue as to what he was seeing. 

Learning to read was too tedious so he continued to use Braille. Until he worked out how to navigate between the two worlds -- sighted and blind, his days were exhausting. In time he created ways to recall faces and some objects. 

He still used a guide dog to get around because there were elements of vision that won't return such as depth perception.

Non-Fiction Challenge — Science