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Death in St. Petersburg: A Lady Emily Mystery


Death in St. Petersburg: A Lady Emily Mystery

It’s 1900, and the new year is just beginning. Lady Emily Hargreaves and her husband, Colin, leave their home in London, where she dabbles in amateur sleuthing, to travel to St. Petersburg, Russia, where he has business --- of the secretive kind. Because of that, Lady Emily plans to spend much of her time with her good friend Cecile, enjoying the sights and the culture of the city. Any chance to get away with Colin is always welcome, and she hopes he can break free from work now and then. In any event, it sounds like an enchanting getaway. It takes almost no time before Lady Emily finds that St. Petersburg does indeed enchant. She is thoroughly charmed by the city and all it has to offer.

But that changes in an instant as she is leaving the famed Mariinsky theatre after a superb performance of “Swan Lake.” Lying in the snow outside the doors is prima ballerina Irina Nemetseva, dead in a spreading pool of blood. It is a horrific scene, and one that thoroughly puzzles the theater group. Who would kill the beloved dancer? Russians take their ballet very seriously, so an investigation is immediately launched. Young Prince Vasilii, though, does not trust in the officials’ competence, preferring instead to enlist the help of Lady Emily, about whom he has heard glowing reports. Always eager to get in the game, she readily agrees.

"Tasha Alexander makes DEATH IN ST. PETERSBURG a smash hit by paying close attention to historical details and breathing life into the streets of St. Petersburg."

The way Nemetseva died seems to have left her spirit restless, for soon a ghostly ballerina waving a scarlet scarf starts appearing around St. Petersburg, spurring superstitions and fear. The city is trembling. Everyone wants a quick resolution to the murder, especially Prince Vasilii. Investigations, though, move at their own speed. Lady Emily has been interviewing witnesses as fast as she can. She hit resistance, though, when she tried to speak with Ekaterina Petrovna, Nemetseva’s close friend and understudy the night of her death. Emily, convinced she is hiding something, assures her that she only wishes to find Nemetseva’s killer, but Petrovna’s reticence holds fast. Is she protecting someone?

We need to look at both of the young women’s pasts to help understand, most closely the three years leading up to the fateful night. That time period tells a story not just of their lives, but also of young love and idealism, hard work and friendship --- and betrayal? Lady Emily imagines many possible motives, but remains stumped. She needs a new direction. Fortunately, Colin’s contacts in Russia allow her entry into places normally not open to her. Meanwhile, the prince keeps meeting her, pushing for answers. And slowly, Lady Emily finds them. But she isn’t happy with where they lead her.

Author Tasha Alexander makes DEATH IN ST. PETERSBURG a smash hit by paying close attention to historical details and breathing life into the streets of St. Petersburg. She makes sure her readers feel the chill of its winter, see the breath of the people walking in the snow, smell the crispness of the air, and sink into the Russian furs helping to keep them warm. In Alexander’s hands, the city comes alive, as do her characters. Lady Emily has to solve the murder without the aid of modern technology, so she must keep her wits about her and use every bit of logic at her disposal.

But it’s not only her brains that are so attractive; her total devotion to her husband and their mutual respect is immensely inviting. The Hargreaves are a couple that many people would find delightful and want to invite to a party. This is a fun series that is easy to read but definitely is not fluff.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on October 13, 2017

Death in St. Petersburg: A Lady Emily Mystery
by Tasha Alexander