The Uninvited Countess
The story starts with humorous banter between art dealer Bedford Green and his “famously tall and lovely assistant” Sloane. It’s 1925 and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney has invited them to her “cottage” in Newport, hinting that she wants to investigate Hungarian countess Zala.
Author Kilian captures the essence of the jazz age, when you might go to a Manhattan club and find that Edna St. Vincent Millay has just left in a poetical uproar. Bedford and Sloane go to the Breakers, only to find out they’re expected at a smaller summer home belonging to Gertrude. They go yachting and to a fabulous party at the Breakers. The countess Zala is missing, and when a body turns up in the surf, they assume she has drowned. Bedford suspects foul play. He is driven to find out who the victim is and who killed her.
Russian aristocrat Tatiana, or Tatty, takes over as his companion. She defines for him the very rich: “They don’t understand why you can’t go sailing on Thursday.” As Bedford treads the line between art and commerce, clues and danger send him reeling. His finesse and sophisticated sleuthing allow him to untangle a complicated knot of circumstance.