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. 🙂 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 and 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 émigré 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 be 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. 🙂
*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. 🙂