Monthly Archives: December 2014

Greg King and Sue Woolmans, The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance that Changed the World

(2014-12-29 001)Title: The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance that Changed the World

Author: Greg King and Sue Woolmans

Publication Information: New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-05546-0

Library of Congress Classification: DB89.F7

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, 1863-1914—Assassination
Sophie, Archduchess of Austria, 1866-1914
Austria—History–Franz Joseph I, 1848-1916
Princes—Austria—Biography
Princesses–Austria—Biography
World War, 1914-1918—Causes

This was a very good book.

I bought it from Amazon on what was basically a whim. The Hapsburg monarchy was something that I had taken an interest in years ago, and even took a class in the empire as an undergrad. I’ve dabbled in the history, but I knew little, if anything, about Franz Ferdinand, the assassinated heir to the throne whose death set off the First World War. And what did I learn?

It seems that most historians never really took the time to know the man behind the facade. History books dismissed Franz Ferdinand as a reactionary, morose, stubborn, unenlightened man whose death started a century of wars. In reality, Franz Ferdinand was a well-educated, intelligent individual who may well have saved the monarchy had he succeeded to the throne. He knew that there was no way the empire could continue under its present organization. Surprisingly, he thought that the federal structure of the United States was the perfect model for a restructured Austria-Hungary. A federated empire of ten states with some self-autonomy and under the rule of a Hapsburg emperor. Ironically, after his death and World War I, many expressed the idea that Franz Ferdinand could have saved the empire had he succeeded to the throne.

Franz Joseph, the reigning monarch since 1848, does not appear in any sympathetic light. His wife had been assassinated, and his son, Crown Prince Rudolph, had committed suicide. He saw his nephew, Franz Ferdinand, as a dangerous element; he wasn’t sorry to see him removed from the succession. He did not like his relatives in general, and tried to keep everything as it had always was; protocol was everything, and the emperor occupied his time with trivial matters. His chamberlain, Prince Alfred de Montenuovo, was also responsible for protocol and Montenuovo used his position to tyrannize the aristocracy. However, it is made quite clear that Franz Joseph was always in charge and allowed Montenuovo his excesses. This included attempting to stop Franz Ferdinand’s marriage to Countess Sophie Chotek, since she came from a family that was not good enough to marry into the Hapsburgs.

Sophie’s family had served the Hapsburgs for at least three centuries; they were never recognized as one of the families that was “equal” to the Hapsburgs and therefore able to marry into the ruling family. The only way Franz Ferdinand could marry Sophie was to remove his children from the succession, which he did. Their morganatic marriage (a marriage of unequals) was used by Montenuovo to humiliate Franz Ferdinand by placing restrictions on how Sophie could appear and accompany him. For example, she could not sit in any of the imperial boxes at the theater and had to be seated alone, far from her husband. She could not be on the arm of her husband in any processions, and had to enter last after every Hapsburg of every rank had already processed; she was escorted into functions by one of the court’s minor officials. Twice no one was there to escort her into the function; the first time Sophie fled in shame, but the second time she walked in alone, her head held high. In horror, one of the Hapsburg archdukes rushed forward and offered her his arm–and created a scandal. But this was typical court life for Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, which is why they eventually shunned it. (Ironically, Montenuovo was the descendant of a morganatic marriage himself, but unlike Sophie Chotek, he was elevated.)

Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were devoted parents, spending far more time with their children than most aristocrats. Instead of only seeing them for a short time daily, they would spend hours with their children at a time when aristocrats allowed their nannies to raise the children. The sons, Max and Ernst, were the first aristocrats to be sent to concentration camps for their anti-Nazi, pro-Hapsburg feelings. The wars robbed the children of their inheritance; to add insult to injury, the new Austrian republican government recognized them as Hapsburgs just to confiscate their landholdings.

The assassination and how lax Austrian security was suggests that there was some conspiracy from Vienna, but there’s no evidence. What is evident is how Franz Ferdinand and Sophie loved each other and their children. He was loyal to an uncle who did not like him, and would have made a good emperor who might have saved the monarchy from ruin.

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Shelley Freydont, Silent Knife

(2014-01-11 001)Title: Silent Knife

Author: Shelley Freydont

Series: A Celebration Bay Mystery

Publication Information: New York: Berkeley Prime Crime, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-425-25238-3

Library of Congress Classification: PS3556.R45

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Montgomery, Liv (Fictitious character)—Fiction
Celebration Bay (N.Y. :  Fictitious place)—Fiction
Christmas—Fiction
Special events—Planning—Fiction
Special events industry—Fiction.
Murder—Investigation—Fiction

I read this one after Kate Kingsbury’s The Clue is in the Pudding and was afraid that I wouldn’t like it as much. I was wrong.

Celebration Bay, the town where Liv Montgomery moves to after leaving Manhattan and her events planner job there, is somewhere in New York State. I assume that it’s on a body of water, perhaps the Hudson, but the water doesn’t play any role in this mystery, and this is the second book in the series.

Liv is relatively new to Celebration Bay. She was hired to be the events coordinator for the town when it was decided that such a person was necessary to make sure the town’s festivities ran well. Celebrations are big money to the town. This one takes place during the Christmas season and after Liv had cracked her first case in Celebration Bay months before.

There’s a warm, homey feeling to the place, which is something that I love. Liv has a Westie named Whiskey, who loves singing with her assistant, Ted, a local who also sings in the choir and tells her to bring the Westie to the carol sing. (Liv knows better.) Whiskey is very well liked by just about everyone in the town. When Liv does her morning routine of visiting the local coffee shop and bakery, there’s always something for Whiskey, who is accompanying her. Her landladies, Ida and Edna Zimmerman, also spoil the dog, and are happy to take him in for a time as Liv gets tied up with work or, on some occasions, snooping.

Problems begin when Newland Gifts is taken over and becomes Trim a Tree. The Newland family patriarch is dying and, needing money, the business is turned over to a cousin, Clarence Thornsby and his wife, Grace. To the surprise of everyone, the Thornsbys turn the old store into Trim a Tree and push out the Newlands; only young Penny is kept on as a salaried employee to help run it. Trim a Tree then hires Phil Cosgrove as their own part-time Santa Claus; the store sells the most garish, most outlandish decorations, which endears the Thornsbys to no one.

In a place like Celebration Bay, this is a no-no. There is only ONE Santa in the town, and that’s Hank Ousterhout, who owns the garage. He’s done it for years and done it well. Christmas is traditional, not new wave or hip. The light-up night of the town tree is the beginning of the official holiday season, and all the stores are expected to turn on their lights after the tree is lit, which announces the arrival of Santa. Poor Liv is stuck trying to undo what she was not responsible for: get Grace Thornsby, who is running Trim a Tree, to abide by the town rules and get rid of the extra Santa. When Phil turns up dead the night of the tree-lighting, the secrets start to come out. The local sheriff, Bill Gunnison, has sciatica, as well as new deputies who, in one overzealous move, arrest one of the town’s old-timers on suspicion of murder–which turns out to be a big mistake.

Of course there’s romance. Nancy Pyne, a (relative) newcomer, owns Pine Bough and likes Hank. Typically, Hank is clueless. Penny had little Bobby out of wedlock but is going to marry Jason; no one, however,  is really sure if Jason is the father. Liv has hired A.K. Pierce, an ex-Marine and head of his own security firm, to help the sheriff. She cannot understand Chaz Bristow, the local newspaper editor who once had a career as an investigative journalist in Los Angeles; after several years there, Bristow abruptly quit, came home and took over the paper that he inherited. He spends his time there and fishing, much to Liv’s frustration. He has no real interest in helping to solve the murder, except to turn up and drive Liv crazy.

A fun book with a real feel for of a small town filled with interesting characters.