Emily (Lady Ashton) is invited to a shooting weekend at Lord Fortescue's estate in the country where ... well, quite a few things happen. First, there's her nasty host, Lord Fortescue, a man of considerable political influence and rather chummy with the Queen. Readers of A Poisoned Season will remember Fortescue's attitude towards our amateur sleuth. In this book, the man's nastiness has cranked up a notch or three; not only does he try to accuse Emily of stealing politically sensitive documents, but he also tries to put a wedge in her relationship with Colin Hargreaves, by inviting Colin's former lover, the great, the beautiful, the picture perfect, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, muse-worthy Countess von Lange.
But Lord Fortescue's ultimate dream of our heroine's social demise comes to a sudden halt as he is killed. And the man accused of his murder is Robert Brandon. Robert doesn't care much for Emily's modern thinking and 'outlandish' behavior, but now that it aides his cause, he needs her help to uncover who truly murdered Lord no-one-will-truly-miss-me Fortescue (his 'shooting' weekend was a huge success, I'd say!).
And so Emily travels to Vienna, where suicide is the new black, to uncover the truth. But she gets more than she's bargained for as she once again crosses paths with the brilliantly super-intelligent Countess von Lange. The countess, a Victorian Mother Theresa, is absolutely determined to retrieve her stolen property (Colin). But is Emily willing to pimp Colin to his former lover -- who owned him first? Or will Emily, selfish creature that she is, keep Colin all to herself?
Does Colin actually care?
What anarchists? What unsolved murder? Sissi who? Such tedious questions when there is pleasure to be had in the form of Countess von Lange, Vienna's local Alessandra Ambrosia.
Yes, yes, I found the countess as appealing as fingernails on chalkboard. This person is so unpleasant and I wonder that no one actually notices it, especially Colin. The countess doesn't hide her childish dislike for Emily, even in front of Emily's fiancé. One would immediately call it petty, but apparently, in Victorian society (and Colin's eye), this is 'worldly' and 'sophisticated'. A disappointing, soap opera-esque rival, to say the least.