Vienna Waltz (Malcom & Suzanne Rannoch Historical Mysteries)

Vienna Waltz - Teresa Grant Last read 24 March to 2 April 2012I have belatedly noticed that Malcolm Rannoch, Peter Wimsey and Jack Blakeney all went to Balliol College, Oxford. This pleases me. If you have not yet read Tracy Grant's books, you are either new here or you just don't trust me. There's not much I can add about the plot and characters in a third review, so please have a look at my first and second. I continue to enjoy re-reading Tracy's books, and this time going through Vienna Waltz, I was about to take a step back from the still-engrossing story and start to look at some of the very effective writing choices she has made. Grant sometimes takes what would be a long cumulative sentence and breaks it up into fragments. Observe this passage from near the beginning of the novel. She had crumpled to the carpet with no sign of strggle. As though whoever had killed her had taken her unawares. As though it was someone she had trusted. Someone who perhaps had been able to embrace her as a lover.By breaking the sentence into fragments, Grant draws subtle attention to the bewilderment of the moment, implying with the punctuation that Suzanne isn't thinking as quickly as she might in other situations. Grammatically, this is a single sentence and could be punctuated thus: She had crumpled to the carpet with no sign of strggle, as though whoever had killed her had taken her unawares, as though it was someone she had trusted, someone who perhaps had been able to embrace her as a lover. This version allows the nature of the cumulative sentence to add emphasis to the final word, "lover", drawing attention to Suzanne's questions regarding Malcolm's relationship with Tatiana. When I pointed this sentence out to my co-worker and fellow writer, A, she offered another option. She had crumpled to the carpet with no sign of strggle, as though whoever had killed her had taken her unawares, as though it was someone she had trusted, someone who perhaps had been able to embrace her: as a lover.This takes the emphasis of the word "lover" that already exists and places even more emphasis on it by separating that phrase from the rest of the sentence with a colon. She and I agreed, however, that colons are rare enough in popular fiction that it's too distracting to really be effective, so we came up with another alternative. She had crumpled to the carpet with no sign of strggle, as though whoever had killed her had taken her unawares, as though it was someone she had trusted, someone who perhaps had been able to embrace her -- as a lover.Of course, by this time, we're beating the reader over the head with the lover idea. Now, I'm not a grammatical pedant, so I'm not going to go all Lynne Truss on you and analyze which of these are "correct" and which are "incorrect". Grammatical correctness is of less importance than how the grammar and syntax affect the reading of the sentence, how the words hit the reader's eye or ear. I find the variety of choice interesting. Each of these sentences emphasizes slightly different aspects of the scene and the characters. All without changing a single word -- though for the last two to really be effective, one might need to tweak the final phrase to remove a little awkwardness the punctuation creates. There are countless alternatives to every sentence and the smallest change can make such a difference. In truth, I think Grant's original is still the strongest, sentence fragments and all, but it's interested to examine all of the options she put aside in choosing it. It's this kind of attention to detail that we all should have with our writing and one of the reasons I think Grant's writing stands up so well over multiple reads. Well, that and the fact that she writes fabulous characters and damn good mysteries. **Previously read 22 - 24 March 2011The ostensible month of publication is April 2011, but all my databases (and the Kensington website) list the 29th of March. Which means, barring delays, there's less than a week to go until the release of Vienna Waltz! I feel like the only one more excited than me has to be Grant herself. This was definitely a volume worth waiting for. Though Grant's Charles and Mélanie novels have always intertwined historical and fictional personages, in Vienna Waltz she takes her skills further and weaves fact and fiction into a wonderful tapestry of what-could-have-been on a level with Frederick Forsyth's Day of the Jackal. Suzanne Rannoch (Mélanie's new name in this novel) and her husband Malcolm, attending the Congress of Vienna as part of the British delegation, are pulled into intrigues surrounding the death of one Princess Tatiana Kirsanova, discovered by Malcolm moments before the room is entered first by his wife, then by Prince Metternich and Tsar Alexander. It seems Princess Tatiana had called them all together for reasons that may or may not be connected to her murder. Despite the Austrians being in charge of the investigation, the British delegation decide to mount one of their own -- with Malcolm in charge, despite the rumours that he was also a lover of Tatiana's. A rumour Suzanne, having watched the pair's behaviour, finds a bit more easy to believe than she would like. Although ostensibly a new series, Vienna Waltz is easily recognizable to Grant's fans as a Charles and Mélanie novel. Even if she had not openly admitted as much of her blog, the presence of several fascinating characters from previous books would have tipped the reader. I confess I'm glad that only a few names were changed other than Charles's and Mélanie's. As fun as it is to recognize historical personages, it was even more fun to light on the presence of Tommy Belmont and several other familiar names. As with Secrets of a Lady and Beneath a Silent Moon, Grant continues to write books that can be read in any order, each book contains revelations that cast a different light as one reads backwards and forwards in these characters' lives.