In A Fatal Waltz, the third in Tasha Alexander's mystery series featuring unconventional Victorian widow Lady Emily Ashton, Emily attends a party at the country house of a man she hates, Lord Basil Fortescue, who is said to be the most powerful man in England. Her best friend Ivy, who is married to a rising politician, talked her into going. Also at the party is an Austrian countess, Kristiana von Lange, who was once romantically involved with Emily's fiance, secret agent Colin Hargreaves. When Fortescue is found murdered, Ivy's husband, Robert, who was seen arguing with him, is imprisoned for the crime. But Emily is certain Robert is innocent, and she discovers that, shortly before his murder, Fortescue received a letter warning of an anarchist plot in Vienna. Believing the letter has something to do with Fortescue's death, Emily goes to Vienna, where she finds that Colin and Kristiana are much too close for her comfort. Traveling with Emily is her older friend, Cecile du Lac, a French noblewoman and friend of the Austrian empress Elisabeth, who is mourning the death of her son, the Crown Prince, who supposedly committed suicide with his mistress. But the Empress believes her son was murdered, and Emily tries to prove there's a connection with the anarchist plot. Meanwhile, an enemy of hers, Harrison, who was also at Fortescue's party, stalks Emily through Vienna, leaving bullets in her hotel room to tell her she isn't safe anywhere. Will she be able to prove Robert's innocence and be sure of Colin's love?
Tasha Alexander's books are always thrilling, suspenseful reads, and Emily is a wonderful heroine. She is independent-minded and doesn't have much use for the conventions of Victorian society, as well as being an expert in ancient Greek art, which comes into play in some of the other books in the series. But she is also vulnerable. She is afraid Colin will see her as inadequate compared to the sophisticated Kristiana. What I especially loved in this book was the atmosphere of 1890s Vienna, with its glittering ballrooms and cafe society. Several historical figures such as the painter Gustav Klimt and the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal make appearances. Anyone interested in Victorian mysteries or novels set in Vienna should enjoy A Fatal Waltz.
A Fatal Waltz is available from the Hatcher Graduate Library.