Lots of Counts, Barons, Baronesses abound. The Countess Rostova approaches Sir Oliver Rathbone with a case which is astounding. Astounding in its audacity. Accusing Gisela the "princess" of the day the living equivalent of a Romeo and Juliet story of murdering her husband, it is first surprising that Zorah is not lynched first by fellow countrymen and next by the common man in England where the case is being held. Even Rathbone cannot understand why he took the case and his colleagues think this is the beginning of the end of all their careers when the case falls flat on its face.
We proceed through investigations carried out in Venice and this is the part of the story I enjoyed. Venice in all its glory in the 1850s. A home for minor royalty of so many states - people ousted from their own homes and Venetians living under Austrian rule. No one could imagine Venice (by the descriptions) that it is a state under enemy rule. Despite the military out in full force Venice enjoys a social status surpassed by none with life continuing for the nobility and the rich as if there is nothing amiss. Monk who comes from proletariat beginnings is appalled at the sheer waste and almost ignorance that the rich have for those not just working for them, but also for the circumstances surrounding them. Reminded me very strongly of many countries today whose rulers/rich segments seem to live in a world so far apart from those who surround them and also oblivious to what is going on. So things have not changed very much since the 1850s.
The emergence of so many strong women was a nice touch in this story. We have Zorah steadfast throughout till the truth was out, we have Gisela the slightly removed from reality Princess, we have Hester the nurse and confidante of Sir Oliver and Monk all who play vital roles in the story.
The story winds through Venice and back to the courts in England with a jury of respectable gentlemen who have to decide the case. The language was slow and ponderous but the book was not in the least bit heavy. It took me just a little while to get into the swing of the story but after about 15 pages I was hooked!