At her friend Ivy's behest, Emily reluctantly agrees to attend a party at the sprawling English country estate of Lord Fortescue, a man she finds as odious as he is powerful. But if Emily is expecting Lord Fortescue to be the greatest of her problems, she is wrong. Her host has also invited Kristiana von Lange, an Austrian countess who was once linked romantically with Emily's fiancé, the debonair Colin Hargreaves. What Emily believes will be a tedious evening turns deadly when Fortescue is found murdered, and his protégé, Robert Brandon - Ivy's husband - is arrested for the crime.
Determined to right this terrible wrong and clear Robert's name, Emily begins to dig for answers, a quest that will lead her from London's glittering ballrooms to Vienna's sordid backstreets. Not until she engages a notorious anarchist in a game of wits does the shocking truth begin to emerge: the price of exonerating Robert can be paid only by placing Colin in deadly peril. To save her fiancé, Emily must do the unthinkable: bargain with her nemesis, the Countess von Lange.
I have really enjoyed Tasha Alexander's first two books of Victorian Mysteries featuring Lady Emily Ashton as the amateur sleuth. In this third story lady Emily has to solve a murder to help the, wrongly accused, husband of her friend Ivy and that leads her to travel to Vienna in the aftermath of Kronprinz Rudolph's suicide and embroil herself with some unsavoury people from the anarchist movement.
One of the things I like best about this series is that it has a very cosmopolitan feel. Lady Ashton travels abroad in each book and sees different societies. I really like Emily although sometimes she comes across as a bit too fearless. But she is mostly sensible, likes art and history and had the good taste of falling in love with Colin Hargreaves... clearly a very intelligent woman!
Emily and Colin are attending a house party hosted by the disagreeable Lord Fortescue. Emily is feeling somewhat insecure as Colin's former mistress is also in attendance and it is obvious she has not forgotten him. When Lord Fortescue is murdered Ivy's husband, Robert Brandon, is the main suspect and she asks for Emily's help in finding the real murderer. While Colin is off doing secret work Emily follows a lead to Vienna in the company of Cecile du Lac and Bainbridge.
I did like how Alexander described the Viennese society and it's underworld of plots and secret societies fighting for different political alliances. I'm not sure I was effectively convinced by her portrayal of Sissi but I also wasn't annoyed by it. I also liked that the answer to the mystery was not too obvious; it wasn't in his recent enemies or in his current behaviour although you could say it was due to his general behaviour towards people. My only complaint is that I think the story lacked more Emily / Colin scenes. I think it would have brought more depth to the characters. Hopefully that will happen in the next book.