The breathtaking beauty of St. Petersburg before the Russian Revolution provides a dazzling backdrop for murder.
Colin Hargreaves, a covert agent for Great Britain, has recently been spending a great deal of time in Russia. Delighted to be able to join her husband and see St. Petersburg, Lady Emily Hargreaves gladly accepts an offer from her friend Cécile du Lac to accompany her there for the season. The elegant balls and cultural events are a joy to experience; the ladies' visit to the ballet follows a different script when the prima ballerina is found slashed to death in the snow. The next day Prince Vasilii Ruslanovich Guryanov begs Lady Emily to investigate the murder of Irina Semenova Nemetseva, more familiarly known to him as Irusya. With Colin preoccupied by his own problems, Emily agrees to see what she can discover. Irusya’s best friend, Katenka, danced Irusya’s part in Swan Lake the night she was killed, making a sensational debut bound to advance her career and provide a plausible motive for murder. As Emily continues her investigation, Alexander provides the back stories of the two friends and their romances. Irusya, who came from a wealthy family, was in love with Lev, Katenka’s brother but, unwilling to give up her dancing and lifestyle, carried on several affairs with wealthy aristocrats. Lev has fallen on hard times and become involved with a group calling for peaceful reforms that stop short of revolution. Although Emily is presented with many motives for murder, none ring quite true to her.
The purest mystery among Alexander’s adventures (A Terrible Beauty, 2016, etc.) presents a challenging puzzle, a historically interesting period, and detailed descriptions of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.