Famous and infamous diplomats and sovereigns from all over the continent have gathered for the Congress of Vienna to negotiate who gets what of the remains of Napoleon Bonapartes once vast empire. Half the people are spies for one power or another, and dangerous information as well as partners are being exchanged as well in the bed chambers and salons of the ladies. Late one night, Princess Tatiana, the most talked about woman in Vienna, is murdered. Unfortunately for him, her body is discovered by Malcolm Rannoch, a secret agent and attaché to the British foreign secretary. His wife Suzanne arrives on the scene soon after. Prince Metternich and Tsar Alexander, both ex-lovers of the beautiful woman, shortly follow. Who caused Tatiana to be killed? Was it one of those who discovered the body?
After two years into their marriage of convenience, Suzanne and Malcolm still keep past secrets from each other. Yet they form a formidable investigative team as they set out to solve this crime which might be connected to a plot to upset Europes fragile peace. Uncovering the truth is difficult in Vienna, but Suzanne is particularly adept at ferreting out relevant bits of information. Besides fittings for dresses and attendance at fetes, gossip, after all, seems to be the main occupation of the elite women. Their repeated digressions about love, affairs, and concerns about the extent of their husbands marital infidelities, however, at times slows the storys pace. Nonetheless, details about the clothing, music, dance, and entertainments of Viennas fashionable elite are fascinating. One nicely described event created by the ladies was the Carrousel, an elaborate recreation of a medieval tournament.
A large cast of influential figures appears in the book, and Grant wisely provides a list of both real and fictional characters for the reader. Also find Historical Notes.