A glitteringly tiara-ed, doom-sodden gothic romance set in 1929 Germany and 1935 Austria and Czechoslovakia--narrated in brisk, contained astonishment by young Eddie Livingstone, British career diplomat-to-be. Eddie takes on a tutoring job in the summer of 1929 with a noble family in Schleswig-Holstein: an eccentric old Countess, a descendant of Catherine the Great with both an iron will and and a witty, bawdy flirtatiousness; her pale, widowed English daughter-in-law; and Eddie's pupil Alexander, the Countess' grandson, a lad of incredible beauty and intelligence who quite naturally wants out of the Stygian gloom of the old castle. And Eddie's big 1929 dilemma is: did young Alexander kill, with malice aforethought, the manager of the estate and his grandmother's confidant? (Eddie is forced to help Alexander dump the body into the Black Lake.) Then, suddenly, the scene shifts to 1935, and Eddie is stationed in Vienna, where rich Alexander has become a successful actor--with an aristocratic, shamelessly philandering over-ripe mistress; the Austrians are in a Gotterdammerung fever of gaiety. But when Alexander attempts to rescue a Jewish couple from a suspicious fire, he's horribly disfigured--and further, fatal heroics ensue in Czechoslovakia, while Eddie escapes with his new young love and her father; later they'll adopt Alexander's illegitimate son. There's more and more sub-plotting tangled in the underbrush, but it's all exquisitely espaliered, lush, and extravagant--a classy mittel-European concoction by the author of The Journey (her intriguing 1978 auto-biography).