Café Europa: An Edna Ferber Mystery by Ed Ifkovic

Café Europa: An Edna Ferber Mystery by Ed Ifkovic
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Historical, Mystery/suspense
Length: Full Length (278 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Snapdragon

In 1914, as rumors of war float across Europe, Edna Ferber travels to Budapest with Winifred Moss, a famous London suffragette, to visit the homeland of her dead father and to see the sights. Author Edna is fascinated by ancient Emperor Franz Joseph and by the faltering Austro-Hungarian Empire, its pomp and circumstance so removed from the daily life of the people she meets. Sitting daily in the Café Europa at her hotel, she listens to unfettered Hearst reporter Harold Gibbon as he predicts the coming war and the end of feudalistic life in Europe while patrons chatter.

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Headstrong Cassandra Blaine is supposed to marry into the Austrian nobility in one of those arranged matches like Consuela Vanderbilt’s still popular with wealthy American parents eager for titles and impoverished European nobility who have them to offer. But Cassandra is murdered, and her former lover, the dashing Hungarian Endre Molnár, is the prime suspect. Taken with the young man and convinced of his innocence, Edna begins investigating with the help of Winifred and two avant-garde Hungarian artists. Meanwhile possible war with Serbia is the topic of the day as Archduke Franz Ferdinand prepares to head to Sarajevo. While the world braces for disaster, Edna uncovers the truth –and it scares her.

Set in the early 1900s, this series features a female reporter-slash-investigator out to solve murders.

Edna Ferber travels to Budapest along with a well-known suffragette. They stay near the famed ‘Café Europa,’ a restaurant at the heart of the city in several different respects. Most importantly, its the place to hear all of the news of the day. It is there that Ferber runs into the American heiress, Cassandra Blaine, who is almost immediately murdered.

Ferber is on the case. From this point forward, Café Europa proceeds to deliver a classic type murder mystery, plus a little more. The location is exotic, reference to historic events sets it all in its historic time, and the motivation to solve the crime grows steadily throughout. Sadly, I found I didn’t care quite enough for the Heiress, and so failed to feel much motivation to solve her death. However, clearing an innocent man becomes the focus, and will keep readers’ interest. I have read more riveting mysteries, though.

Those interested in the history of the time will be fascinated not only by events, but by attitudes. Mr. Ifkovic creates an amazing and believable aura; we know the doom that is coming, but somehow, still feel the desperateness of the times, the anxiety, and even the doubt. Details as small as clothing and food are noted and somehow, in this book we ‘see’ the times so clearly. Beautifully written, it is very readable and quite worthwhile.

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