A Fatal Waltz

A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander. The third entry in the Lady Emily Ashton and Colin Hargreaves series has all the classic elements of a Victorian era mystery: a huge country estate, lord and ladies and their requisite mistresses and lovers, hidden scandals exposed, dark anarchists plotting mayhem, fabulous balls and tea with the empress. Lady Ashton, though a bit naïve and insecure, is a lover of art and ancient Greece and modern enough to conduct murder investigations and drink port after dinner instead of sherry. She’s also a steady ally to her friends, and when her friend’s husband is accused of shooting a powerful politician, she’s willing to travel to Vienna to track down the clues needed to solve the case. Alexander does a nice job of subtly inserting these clues so that astute readers will see a pattern emerging, but will not have it handed to them on a silver spoon.

Unfortunately, another common Victorian element, the melodramatic romance, is much too prevalent in this novel. There’s romance between the butler and the maid, kept apart because they serve different nobles; between the unemployed, but talented, artist and the wealthy merchant’s daughter whose family disapproves of her choice; and between the modern American woman and the Oxford don. Then there’s the victim, his third wife and his long-time mistress and also the childhood friend who pines for Lady Ashton, but can never have her. If that weren’t enough, there’s Ashton herself, her fiancé, Hargreaves and his former lover, Countess Kristiana von Lange, who wants to win him back. Emily’s little band of friends is interesting, but the book gets too bogged down in all the romantic interplay.

For other Victorian era stories with a balance of more mystery and less romance, I recommend “The Riddle of the River” by Catherine Shaw and “A Flaw in the Blood” by Stephanie Barron.


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