The author plays titular hostess in the third in a series of historical mysteries about actual crimes (The Prince Lost to Time, 1995, etc.), reading autobiographical manuscripts supplied by the time-traveling or vampirishly eternal Dr. Nicholas Segalla. Segalla, always acting for power players, here represents Pope Leo XII as His Holiness strives to comprehend the deaths of Archduke Rudolph and his young mistress Maria Vetsera, found--shot? poisoned?--in 1889 in the Imperial hunting lodge near Vienna. As the Hapsburg Empire reels in reaction, the grieving Emperor claims the deaths are the result of a suicide pact. But stubborn Segalla has forged alliances with an honest policeman and a liberal journalist; he visits the scene of the crime, interviews all comers, from the floor-cleaners to the ""podgy"" widow Crown Princess Stephanie, reads copies of royal letters and the records of Viennese drug dispensers, and reveals a cover-up of the tragedy that is in itself a monstrosity of incompetence. Beneath it he'll perceive a double murder and, probing even further, a motive and a murderer as well. In revisiting the Mayerling event--the Kennedy assassination of the Romantic era--the pseudonymous Dukthas has a good subject for history or mystery. But her monochromatic prose leaches it here of all drama. And her denouement, really a Gordian slash, leaves some relevant items (the Archduke's earlier amours?) dangling unresolved.