A young artist on the verge of success throws himself out of his window, to be impaled on the iron fence below. An established art gallery owner and happily married family man inexplicably shoots himself. Apparent suicides both, but the results of an autopsy points Chief Inspector Lamb and his sergeant, Cogan, in quite another direction. Their investigation begins with the one fact that links the victims, an encounter in Vienna. Mysterious letters and a possible extortion attempt complicate their task, as do the political and artistic intrigues centering in the Austrian capital.
Ms. Eccles is first a storyteller. Much of this novel is written in that form, as if you are listening at the knee of your great-grandmother. However at times the prose seems deliberately obtuse, the mystery in the story coming as much from how it is told, rather than the plot itself. Set in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, the story is agonizingly true to that time. Like an old Victorian mansion, decoration and ornamentation abound. Words are used like gingerbread, trimming each portion of the story with complex and elaborate design. Thus the entire first half of the book is needed to simply provide the exposition. The second half, where the story really starts, is more satisfying. But like an overdone Victorian manor, I fear there is simply too much extraneous detail in this for many readers.