marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

The Clairvoyant Countess

The Clairvoyant Countess by Dorothy Gilman.

One might call this an urban fantasy, with its psychic heroine.  But she and a few other psychics are the fantastic element; more fantastical elements are suggested to be psychosomatic.  Also, the heroine is certainly getting on in years; it takes place in the 1970s or thereabouts, and she was a refugee from the Russian Revolution, albeit as a child.  (I've got to admire the deftness with which her back story is brought to life and yet left in the background as not relevant.  Also the chief thing I notice now that I didn't when I was in my teens and first reading it is how 1970s it was.  The prices get me particularly.)

But her stories here opens with her dreams of a brownstone with a sign in the window -- Madame Karitska, Readings.  She happens on the brownstone itself five minutes aftere the landlord has put up a sign saying an apartment's for rent, and rents it.  And the books wind on through an interlacing series of stories traced back to her readings.

A major thread in the book starts when she is consulted by a young woman.  Reading her ring, she thinks it was worn by a woman who was murdered by poison, and her client says it was her mother's, who died of a heart attack.  Reading her wallet, she warns her against the person whose letter is in it.  When the woman is murdered, the police find her note about visiting Madame Karitska, and Lt. Pruden visits.  She gives him a tip that seems absurb, and tells him that his father will, after all, live.  He visits her with questions, she calls on him when police intervention is appropriate, and she steers some investigation the right way.

Other things these threads include involve a man whose marriage is unhappy, a song about a romance through reincarnations, a man who rescued his wife from a death camp, a spy and treacheous murders, the stealing of crosses, an attempt by the Syndicate to take over ice cream trucks, an alleged wicked witch and poison, and an early prediction of Madame Karitska's about Lt. Pruden coming true.
Tags: fiction reviews: contemporary fantasy, fiction reviews: mystery

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