An opulent (viz. ornate) novel of a votary of passion, Countess Maria Tarnovska, who lived at the turn of the century and loved not wisely, not well, and chiefly in a punitive retaliation for her husband's gross infidelities. The Countess is an actual character, and this retraces her life from the time when she is arrested after the murder of her ""fiance""-with cocaine, love letters and obscene photographs among her personal paraphernalia. The playback goes back to her childhood; to her first attachment to Andrey who became a priest because of her; to and through her marriage to the orgiastic Vassily. She takes other lovers, leaves with Alexis, a dying man, whom a sinister doctor introduces to the needle. Finally there is her involvement with the insatiable Prilukov, her lawyer, and the susceptible Naumov, both of whom will face the charge of murdering still another man in her life.... Habe is a traditional story teller who for the most part has been more successful on the continent than here where we are less inclined to equate a German love of words with a gift for them.