Prince Friedrich and his wife Gisela lived one of the great love stories of their time. They left Felzberg because the Queen did not approve of their marriage and Friedrich chose exile rather than give up the woman he loved. Now, Prince Friedrich has died as a result of complications from an accident, and Countess Zorah Rostova has accused Gisela of murdering him. Gisela in turn is charging Zorah with slander and has hired Sir Oliver Rathbone to defend her. The case seems hopeless as soon as Rathbone learns of Friedrich and Gisela's almost mythical and very public love, even more so when he learns that Gisela didn't leave Friedrich's side during his illness and would therefore be unable to procure poison with which to kill him as accused. Though Rathbone implores Zorah to retract her statements, she insists on their truth. Rathbone soon employs the help of William Monk and, to a lesser extent, Hester Latterly to help investigate the case.
In addition to the complicated personal relationships, this novel was filled with a great deal of political intrigue. Prince Friedrich's family and associates were split over unifying the German provinces under Prussia or continued independence. If I were a good librarian I'd do a little history reading to find out how much of that story was based on actual history, but I am lazy about that sort of thing. It would have been awesome to have a couple of pages at the end explaining the facts behind the novel.
A noticeable aspect of Anne Perry's books is the amount of internal dialogue in the form of analysis of people's personalities and motivations. Every conversation is broken up by thoughtful deconstruction and observations of one character about another. Are people really that insightful? Can that much information really be gleaned from a look in someone's eyes? I tend to think it's all a bit much, but then again I've never been accused of being insightful myself. This analysis adds a lot of information to the story I suppose, but I can't decide whether I consider it a positive or negative aspect of her writing. I think I would just little a tiny bit less of it.
Mysteries are kind of great for me because I'm always surprised. I have no idea where they're going, nor do I particularly try to figure it out. I just happily ride along, learning more and more about the story until finally the secrets are uncovered and I am satisfied. I found this one slightly more predictable than previous books in the series but that may just be because I've gotten used to reading this genre.
As much as I enjoy reading about William Monk and Sir Oliver Rathbone, it's Hester Latterly who I really enjoy and there was less of her in this book than I like. Hopefully she will be more present in future books in this series.