Weeks (Awakening Avalon, 2014, etc.) introduces an intrepid new heroine, Countess Beatrice "Trixie" von Falkenburg, who crosses the Continent to solve a puzzle in her first foray in the demimonde.
The Countess of Falkenburg is distracted from society gossip and the woes of the declining aristocracy by a call from her dear Uncle Berty, aka the distinguished Gen. Albrecht Schönburg-Hartenstein. A body washed up in the Vltava River may well be that of Alois Tager, Berty’s batman throughout his years in the army, who was supposed to be safely in a home for aged veterans. The possibility of Alois’ death occasions not just sentimental sadness for Uncle Berty, but also serious financial risk. Berty and prosperous merchant Isidor Pinkerstein are the last two members of a Tontine, a gambling syndicate based on the life expectancy of the members' chosen proxies, with an enormous reward as the prize to the last survivor. Alois, of course, was Uncle Berty's stand-in, and Berty isn't sure that was really him in the river, so he asks Trixie to investigate—since no one will suspect "a perfectly respectable Countess....It is the perfect disguise." The theater is currently home to the Union of Servants, whose gatherings Trixie infiltrates to find the only thing more scandalous than labor organizing: valets and ladies’ maids dressed in swiped finery and aping their betters. Duly energized, Trixie sets out on a mad chase across the railways of Europe, finding another corpse along the way and ending in London. Motley clues lead to an astonishing scheme that threatens the most horrific weapon of war the world has yet seen and puts the very lives of King Edward and Kaiser Wilhelm at risk.
The titled heroine is implausible but charming, and the plot is crammed as full of intrigue as a Viennese pastry is of cream. Weeks blends equal parts espionage and farce into a frothy confection that ends perhaps a bit too darkly on intimations of World War I.