Monday, April 8, 2013

THE CLAIRVOYANT COUNTESS by Dorothy Gilman








“Oh but my dear Lieutenant,” she said sadly, “a human being incapable of suffering is viciously crippled. We may reject suffering but just think what we would be without it! There would be no empathy, no compassion, no remorse, and above all no growth. To have feelings so blocked, to be lacking in any sense of tragedy—" She shook her head. “What is left but hatred?” 

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What a strange book. Dorothy Gilman’s The Clairvoyant Countess is a series of episodes in which clairvoyant displaced Russian countess Madame Karitska uses her powers to solve mysteries.

Madame Karitska solves all kinds of problems. She shows that an accused murderess who committed suicide was actually innocent. She deals with the mob trying to take over the ice cream sales franchise in the ethnic parts of Trafton, New Jersey. (They want to use it to distribute drugs.) She saves an impoverished musician about to commit a crime. And she finds a kidnapped young woman whose parents had thought she was dead.

There are other episodes too.

Madame Karitska always uses her clairvoyant powers to solve the case. She can hold an object someone owned or has worn and see into that person’s character. She can also tell some things about the person’s past and future.

I picked up this book because I always enjoyed Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax stories. But this book was different. I struggled with the episodic nature of the story. I prefer straight-through narrative. 

The book did have one of Gilman’s hallmarks. It had some blinding insights wrapped in a light story. The quote at the beginning of these comments shows that.

Dorothy Gilman is a revered cozy writer. I revere her too, but more for Mrs. Pollifax than for Madame Karitska.

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