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Book vs TV Adaptation: Vienna Blood aka The Liebermann Papers


I don’t normally watch TV but while my hubby channel hopped a trailer caught our eyes at the end of the trailer hubby said “have you read that then” to my horror I had not, a situation I quickly remedied in time for the first show (I have only read the first book)

So lets tackle the book first:

Synopsis from Goodreads: In 1900s Vienna, Psychoanalyst Dr Max Liebermann is called in to help with police investigations into the murder of a young medium.

In this first of a new series of psychoanalytical detective novels set in Vienna, Dr Max Liebermann is a young psychoanalyst – and disciple of Freud. The world of 1900s Vienna is one where philosophy, science and art flourish and are hotly debated in the coffee shops. Psychoanalysis is still developing and is viewed with a mixture of excitement and suspicion.

Liebermann’s good friend Oskar Rheinhardt is a Detective Inspector — hard working but lacking Liebermann’s insights and forensic eye, and so it is through Rheinhardt that Liebermann is called upon to help with police investigations surrounding the death of a beautiful young medium in what seems at first to be supernatural circumstances. When Liebermann attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery, he also must decide whether he is to follow his father’s advice and marry the beautiful but reserved Clara.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this murder mystery from the beginning I thought I had one aspect worked out and I was so pleased with myself until we got to the end and it turned out I was wrong.

I really enjoyed seeing how psychoanalyst theory was applied to solve the case as well as to treat a young woman. While I had a layman’s understanding of what was involved I had always turned my nose up at Freud this book showed how it was a much more humane treatment that most available for mental health issues at the time.

The book highlights how mental health was used as a weapon against women and that those wielding the power (men) often conspired to keep women in their place by making it seem they were unstable.

The TV show: Well I never expected the BBC to do a bad adaptation but this was terrible. If you ask me it was a complete rewrite!

What did they get wrong?

  1. The relationship between the main characters – in the book the men are firm friends before the case and they have an easy good natured banter. In this they have just met.
  2. The Victim – in the book everyone knew who she was and what she did in the show no-one knew.
  3. The suspects – in the book they are all (largely) present from the start in the show the police have to hunt them down.
  4. The second murder – wrong victim.
  5. The women – this really makes me mad, in the book the women we meet are intelligent they challenge Liebermann and also provide insights into the case in the show they are vapid, hysterical and out for marriage.
  6. Freud’s Theory of Psychoanalysis – the book makes a big deal about how humane and effective this treatment can be. Liebermann goes out of his was to use this method of healing and avoids using ECT, guess what? The show has the “hysterical” woman subjected to ECT.
  7. Let’s throw in some police brutality just for effect what the heck.

What they got right – the resolution to how the room remained locked and the type of bullet. That was it!!

My recommendation – Burn the TV and read the book.

We want to hear from you did anyone see the show without reading the book and what did you think? Anyone else done both and what did you think?

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I agree. The TV adaptation was terrible. In addition to what you’ve listed:
    – In the books, Rheinhardt is happily married with multiple children – in the series, his only daughter is dead, his wife has left him and he’s a gloomy and not-really-good detective. What purpose does this change serve?
    – The Liebermann’s are (in the TV show) ENGLISH! Why? In the books, they are Austrian, and that makes so much more sense – the rising anti-semitism subplot and how Max refuses to see that his fellow countrymen/women/people might other him and his family for his Jewish heritage makes so much more sense as he does not see himself as an “outsider” at all. With him being English, he already is an outsider.
    – The actor cast for Liebermann look much too frail, if thats the right word?


    February 17, 2022
  2. Nancy Wolf #

    I have not yet read the books, but love the TV adaptation, which is now running in its second season here in NYC.

    No, Max Libermann in the series is NOT English, though the actor happens to be English, Why the show is done in English, I can only imagine–maybe because for ease of marketing, world-wide. Max and his family are Vienna Jews and the first season clearly shows that they are aware of anti-semitism, particularly the father.

    Although Clara has been brought up to only think of marriage, by the present season, she has broken her engagement and is quickly becoming a good writer of crime stories for a newspaper. Amelia, whom Max has loved in the first season, has yet to appear, but she is a serious, educated scientist. Leah, Max’s sister, has been brought into the family fabric business and is doing well.

    I think that Max and Oskar discovering each other was a fascinating part of the first season and now Oskar has met a woman he is interested in. Max is becoming a successful doctor and he and Clara are establishing a science-writing partnership.

    More to come.


    January 18, 2023

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