Death in St. Petersburg
Lady Emily Mystery, Book #12
By Tasha Alexander
Author’s website: http://www.tashaalexander.com/
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
When the body of a prima ballerina is discovered in the snow, Lady Emily races through Saint Petersburg to solve the murder, while a ghostly dancer appears to take the lost ingénue’s place.
After the final curtain of Swan Lake, an animated crowd exits the Mariinsky theatre brimming with excitement from the night’s performance. But outside the scene is somber. A ballerina’s body lies face down in the snow, blood splattered like rose petals over the costume of the Swan Queen. The crowd is silenced by a single cry— “Nemetseva is dead!”
Amongst the theatergoers is Lady Emily, accompanying her dashing husband Colin in Russia on assignment from the Crown. But it soon becomes clear that Colin isn’t the only one with work to do. When the dead ballerina’s aristocratic lover comes begging for justice, Emily must apply her own set of skills to discover the rising star’s murderer. Her investigation takes her on a dance across the stage of Tsarist Russia, from the opulence of the Winter Palace, to the modest flats of ex-ballerinas and the locked attics of political radicals. A mysterious dancer in white follows closely behind, making waves through St. Petersburg with her surprise performances and trail of red scarves. Is it the sweet Katenka, Nemetseva’s childhood friend and favorite rival? The ghost of the murdered étoile herself? Or, something even more sinister?
Tasha Alexander brings all of the glamour of Russia in the waning years of the Tsar and the allure of the ballet to this twelfth installment in the Lady Emily mystery series. Death in St. Petersburg is a worthy addition to one of my favorite historical mystery series.
Death in St. Petersburg finds our intrepid amateur sleuth on holiday for New Years 1900. Winter in Russia is both beautiful and brutal, something Lady Emily quickly finds when she leaves a stunning ballet performance to find the prima ballerina assoluta, still dressed in her Swan Queen costume, stabbed to death outside the theater. Lady Emily is quickly drawn into the investigation when the ballerina’s lover asks her to look into Nemetseva’s untimely death. This takes Lady Emily behind the scenes of the most prestigious ballet company at the time to the heart of revolutionaries and back to the Winter Palace and the Tsar, all the while weaving a complex multi-pronged puzzle of life and death.
I feel totally transported to St. Petersburg while reading, completely engrossed in the period and place. Alexander’s love for the city and the ballet is palpable through every description and detail. I like that real historical figures are intertwined in the fictional murder mystery; it really gives a feeling of authenticity to the tale. Of course, Alexander’s fabulous research shines through, too. The story is told from alternating points of view, and it works well here. Interspersed with the “current day” investigation are short chapters told from the ballerinas point of view, giving readers an insider’s look into their world and providing necessary background for the mystery. Not being much of a dancer myself, this behind the scenes look at the insular world of the ballerinas is fascinating.
The characters are all intriguing. At times I find Lady Emily to be too modern for her time, but she is still an intelligent and astute investigator. Colin is, as always, rather enigmatic, mostly because his work for the Queen and country is so cloak and dagger. I am so happy to see Sebastian Capet again. He provides much needed comedic relief throughout the book. The steady pace of the story serves the complicated mystery well. Layer by layer the truth is revealed with a few surprises thrown in to keep it all interesting.
I greatly enjoyed my time with Lady Emily in Russia and highly recommend Death in St. Petersburg to fans of the series and those looking for a strong female sleuth in an exotic historical setting.