COURT OF HONOR by Maria Fagyas


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Fagyas (The Devil's Lieutenant) has a proven instinct for scooping up fascinating, fictionalizable scandals out of European history, and this one, Berlin circa 1910, is no exception. But readers who expect the telling to enhance the raw material will come away highly disappointed. The chief problems here are Fagyas' slipshod style and her central character--Hungarian Alexa, a love-hungry Madame Bovary/Anna Karenina who has been married to perfectionist soldier Hans Gunther for three years (""You have turned a live woman into something cold and dead"") when two events change her life: a libel trial that becomes an exposè of homosexual orgies among the ""unholy camarilla"" of the Kaiser's advisers and officers--including Hans; and the arrival in Berlin of Count Nicholas Karady, the widower of Alexa's twin sister. Naively confused and unable to give creepy, taciturn Hans the blind support he demands, Alexa surrenders to her attraction to nifty Nicky, but follows Hans when he is relocated--only to catch him and his valet in flagrante delicto. When her family refuses to help horrified Alexa secure a divorce, she takes up with impulsive ""mama's boy"" Lieutenant van Ranke, who, eager to please, shoots Hans--and eventually breaks down and implicates Alexa as an accomplice. This is the stuff of strong true-crime-like fiction à la Pin to See the Peepshow, but Alexa is too busy worrying about the spirit of her sister hanging over Nicky (""It's I you've been sleeping with, not she! I! I! I!"") to provide the required sharp central focus. And Fagyas, though ready enough with period details, provides not a jot of shadow or color in the clop-clop narration and flavorless dialogue. Still, the intrinsic situation is genuinely intriguing--and unless you're willing to wait and hope that somebody stylish, like the BBC, picks it up, you'll have to take it in Fagyas' cluttered, white-bread rendition.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1978
Publisher: Simon & Schuster