Too much costume to be Drama – Book review for NetGalley – The Countess of Prague #Book 1 by Stephen Weeks

34136884.jpgThe Countess of Prague is the wonderfully exciting introduction to Beatrice von Falklenburg, known to her intimates as Trixie, who will lead us from Prague through Europe and occasionally beyond on a ten-book set of investigations that begins in 1904 and finishes in 1914. The assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo that summer effectively ended the Old Europe into which she was born to a noble Czech father and an English mother. Through the lens of Trixie, whose own journey from pampered aristocrat (albeit in a polite and impoverished marriage) to a degree of emancipation has an exciting yet humorous and sympathetic dynamic, we witness stirring events and societal shifts. Trixie begins her new career at 28. She’s leading a society life and growing apart from her husband although she is as yet too conventional to take a lover. When the brutalized body of an old man once under the command of her military uncle is fished from the Vltava, she takes to the role of a detective and finds solace in it, mixing with ease with kings and princes, but never losing touch with ordinary men and women with whom her new role often puts her in contact. Investigating alters the formality of her relations with her servants and with public officials as we see when she encounters her butler in an unexpected role (and place) and then goes undercover (as a young man) on a train journey to Paris and London. Eventually, liaising with various officials, she arrives at Marienbad, the famous Czech spa, where Edward VII of England and his nephew Kaiser Wilhelm have staged a surprising May meeting….and it is here that the mystery unfolds.

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Too much costume not enough drama. This play on ‘costume drama’ is intentional. I tried my best to finish this book and I have. However, I failed to see what it was about.

There are nice descriptions of places and travels. Obviously, the author knows Prague and surrounds. Does he love it? Does he love women? I do not think so.

The heroine – Beatrice von Falkenburg is a façade without depth. It is as if she has to remind the readers that she is a woman, a countess, a spoiled little girl every hundred words or so.

Is she a private detective? I do not think so. The whole book she was going from A to B, constantly reminding herself of her place and that of the others around her. It got boring to fast.

Was there a mystery? Which one was it? There are too many pieces to the mystery. The never-ending tap of these pieces takes the suspense out of the text. There was hardly anything happening by the middle of the book. I did say it got boring fast.

I love Prague. I absolutely love the city and its history. I did enjoy all the bits to do with that. But I failed to enjoy author’s recklessness treatment of other countries’ cultures and histories. Note to the author: Russians wear wedding ring on the right hand. So do Germans. Check your facts…

The plot wraps up in a package by the end. The Countess saves them all. Really…. It does feel like a very bad and cheap vaudeville.

All in all, I will not read the next instalment.

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