Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch – a review

This is my 130th post on Meeka’s Mind and it seemed rather appropriate to celebrate that milestone by reviewing the book I finished reading at 1 am this morning.

I’ve know Ilil Arbel, author of Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch, for a long time now, [by online standards], so I knew she was an accomplished artist, meticulous researcher and a prolific author, but I was not aware of her sense of fun, until now. πŸ™‚ Apologies for the back-handed compliment Ilil – it’s the aussie way!

When I finished reading Madame Koska I had a big grin on my face. This morning, the word ‘fun’ just popped into my head. Good, clean fun. The word we use to describe some of our happiest memories. You know the ones – they have a sort of warm, golden halo around them. Well, that was how Madame Koska made me feel!

Okay, I’ve probably teased long enough. You don’t want my subjective waffle, you want facts and facts you shall have!

Madame Koska is a mystery set in the flapper period of the 20th century and tells the story of a small group of Russian nobility who have been exiled from Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution. As a mystery, the story has all the elements I associate with the genre – lots of subtle clues that make you suspect literally everyone and a protagonist [Madame Koska herself] who is both likable and very clever. But not a professional sleuth.

If a comparison is needed, then Madame Koska is a little bit like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. Unlike Miss Marple though, Madame Vera Koska is both incredibly stylish andΒ sexy. Another point of difference is that Madame Koska has forged a place for herself in a man’s world and is doing nicely, thank you very much!

Forgive me if I slip into a little subjective waffle again, but I really, really related to Madame Koska! She has all the get up and go I wish I had had, at ‘that certain age’. She is independent, brave without being a Xena-warrior-princess, and strong willed. The fact that she is also a talented fashion designer and always looks elegant is something I might dream of if I were not sitting here in my trackie daks and ugg boots*.

And then there is Mr Korolenko, a Russian Γ©migrΓ© with a scandalous past and an ambiguous present. He is sexy in a very erudite, gentlemanly way, but could he also be a criminal? I did say Ilil kept me guessing didn’t I?

Beyond the delightful characters and the clever unravelling of ‘The Mystery’, the book has something else that truly delighted me. To explain what I mean I’m going to have to ask you to picture the setting of Jim Cameron’s Titanic. Think back to the sheer beauty of everything the camera touched. From the table settings to the lush garments of the upper crust guests, the movie shrieked style and opulence. I wanted to beΒ there. Well, not on the ill-fated Titanic exactly, but in a time and place where such over-the-top beauty was the norm, at least for some.

Can you see it? Well, Madame Koska transported me to that world for a few short hours. I’m not saying the novel didn’t have some gritty moments – as in the opium den for example – but the overall feel was one of elegance and style. And the slightly exotic flavour imparted by the Russian-centric characters immersed me in a ‘vorld’ I had never visited before. It’s a world I would like to visit again and I truly hope Ilil continues the adventures of Madame Koska in the future! Highly recommended. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks

*trackie daks = track pants

*ugg boots are sinfully warm, comfortable, sheep-skin boots. If you don’t own a pair then you don’t know what you are missing. πŸ™‚

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About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

38 responses to “Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch – a review

  • Ilil Arbel

    Forgive me, everyone! So many nice comments and I did not answer for such a long time. I was caught up in the Sandy storm, and indeed, my building was lucky in that we had water and gas, and only lost electricity and heat. I live on the third floor so going downstairs (with a torch, of course!) was not an issue either. Some other buildings in the compound are still in the dark… so I am sure you will forgive me. And today we have another snow storm and the poor people who were hit by Sandy are in the dark again… it’s really bad. I am trying to catch up with everything and you made my day by the nice discussion of M.K.! And yes, the sequel will indeed be based on the Ballets Russe, so I am already wallowing in books about it. I am reading a fascinating biography of Diaghilev… stay tuned!

    Like

    • acflory

      Just promise me you won’t put M.Koska in a tutu. :p A brief fling with Nijinsky wouldn’t be bad though. πŸ˜€ Sorry! I just have a thing for ballet dancers. My parents took me to see Nureyev when I was 12 and I’ve been in love ever since.

      Like

  • Carrie Rubin

    Sounds like a great strong female protagonist. Always good to find those.

    I’ve avoided buying Uggs because of my nonconformist tendencies. But maybe I’ll have to rethink. I like warm tootsies.

    Like

    • acflory

      -giggles- I didn’t know they were the ‘in’ thing!?! Here in Australia we tsk tsk at people who wear their uggs in public, but I confess to doing it when I’m just racing down to the local shop for some bread or milk. Then again, I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I’ll race out in my muddy gardening clothes without any embarrassment if I’m busy. Ah the joys of being the invisible woman. That’s one of the lesser known perks of getting older. πŸ˜‰

      Like

  • metan

    It sounds like a great book and you know what I love about a kindle? That between reading your review and making this comment I already have it waiting to be read, so thanks!

    (It sounds a little like the Phryne Fisher novels, which I loved.)

    Like

  • lorddavidprosser

    A fantastic review of what I always said was a fantastic book with so much promise for the future. I’m delighted to be proved right. You brought it to life Andrea.as Ilil brought the characters and the story to life in the book.

    Like

    • acflory

      I’m glad… and thank you! I was a bit worried my enthusiasm would make it sound too mushy, but when I really like a book, I really like it. lol

      Like

      • Ilil Arbel

        Thank you both so much. I am really taken by surprise as to how many people actually like the book! Even a real mystery writer, Wayne Zurl, just put a good one on Amazon… By now there is no doubt there are going to be sequels, thanks to all this kindness. On to the ballets Russe!

        Like

  • Candy Korman

    I have to read this one!
    I know I’ve never told you this but I’ve been working on a series of mystery short stories set in and around NYC in 1924 β€” Fitzgerald, Gershwin, flappers, gangsters, follies on Broadway, prohibition…

    I’m going to look it up right now!

    Like

    • acflory

      lmao – you dark horse you! I love that era and I’m sure you’ll love Madame Koska!

      Ahem…any time frame on these mysteries of yours? -nudge, nudge-

      Like

      • metan

        I have eavesdropped on this conversation and am waiting with bated breath for the answer… flappers, gangsters and prohibition? lovely! πŸ™‚

        Like

        • acflory

          Oh, that’s right! Illegal hooch in speakeasys… or something?

          Like

        • Candy Korman

          I just downloaded Madam K! Will start reading it tonight…

          Mine are just short stories. I published the first two on my freelance website a while back and the third is going up next month.

          Illegal hooch was one of the amazing, crazy things about the period in the US. Oddly enough, according the research I did, the illegal nature of drinking actually upped the number of women who drank. Drinking became glamorous and risky. Lots of cocktails with funny names and sugar to cover the poor quality of the hooch.

          Prohibition actually promoted the gangster as a hero/anti-
          hero. It became very romantic. The Great Gatsby is iconic and he was writing in NY in the early 20’s before he went out west.

          Like

  • Ilil Arbel

    My dear Andrea, a million thanks! You have made my day! What a delightful review, I am speechless. And yes, yes yes, of course there is going to be a sequel. My wonderful editor/proofreader without whom I could not produce a book, Louanne M. Wheeler, has already agreed to work with me. This time it will be the Ballets Russe, with fictional characters that might remind you of Pavlova, Diaghilev, Nijinsky, and Stravinsky staging a ballet in London and requesting the services of Madame Koska for the costumes — but not for the murder…

    And this is the 130th post? How lovely. Thirteen for luck, ten times! So much luck you won’t even know what to do with it!

    Like

    • acflory

      Yes! You’ve won my heart already. I adore ballet and those were the names in my pantheon growing up. πŸ˜€ I added Nureyev, and to a slightly lesser extent Fontaine to the pantheon but my old loves are still strong. πŸ˜€

      And thank you, good luck is always welcome. πŸ˜€

      Like

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