Vienna 1903. Outside one of the cities most splendid baroque churches the decapitated body of a monk is found. Shortly after, the remains of a municipal councillor are discovered in the grounds of another church - his head also ripped from his body. It transpires that both men were rabid anti-semites and suspicions fall on Vienna's close-knit community of Hassidic Jews. In a city riven by racial tensions and extremism, the situation is potentially explosive. Detective Inspector Rheinhardt turns to his trusted friend, the young psychoanalyst Doctor Max Liebermann, for assistance. As the investigation progresses, Liebermann is drawn into the world of Jewish mysticism - a magical world dominated by the rites and secret lore of the Kabbalah. Liebermann, a man who rejects all forms of superstition, is forced to embrace his own cultural origins to understand the meaning of the murders. In the old ghetto district of Prague, he learns of folk legends concerning a great Kabbalist which will ultimately provide him with the key to the mystery. At the same time, Liebermann's life is in crisis. Political forces conspire against him, resulting in his suspension from the General Hospital - and the unobtainable object of his romantic desires has become an unhealthy obsession.