In 1815, all of Europe’s major political figures are attending the Congress to determine the future of Europe. They intend returning France to her original borders, but the new Bourbon king has sent the cunning Talleyrand to negotiate for France. Tsar Alexander has his own agenda regarding Poland and Prussia and means to foil his rival, the Austrian Foreign Minister Prince Metternich. Even Poland’s Prince Czartoryski is there, playing parts beyond that of diplomat and political adviser to the Tsar. And most importantly, these men did not come without their ladies. Grant assigns major roles to the Duchess of Courland, the Tsarina of Russia, and Dorothee, Prince Talleyrand’s niece and hostess at the Congress.
At its core, Vienna Waltz is a whodunit with a murder in the opening pages and a sleuthing young couple determined to find the killer. Malcolm Rannoch is an attaché to the British delegation headed by the Foreign Secretary, Lord Castlereagh. He and his wife, Suzanne, are tasked to investigate the slaying of a Russian princess who secretly spied for the English. As we learn that the young woman had numerous lovers and was a blackmailer, all the major political figures at the Congress become suspects. Each has ample motivation.
Well plotted, Vienna Waltz successfully builds tension and intrigue. The author deserves high praise for her remarkably accurate retelling of this short but very important piece of European history. She is especially adept at informing the reader about relevant political issues without resorting to long narratives.
Grant takes considerable risk in including actual historical characters and even more risk by ascribing them dialog and motivation. Yet she succeeds and does so most admirably. Although the romance between Suzanne and her husband anchors the story, the setting and the inclusion of historical characters elevate this book to a well-written historical novel.