Cover Image: Madame Koska & the Imperial Brooch

Madame Koska & the Imperial Brooch

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Member Reviews

This was a fun and very clever mystery. It gave me an insight into the fashion of the times as well as life as a Russian emigre. It was very suspenseful and short with a sassy heroine! I recommend this for those that want a light-hearted mystery like Rhys Bowen, Jacqueline Winspear, and Tessa Arlen! I can’t wait to pick up the sequel!

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Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch is an extraordinary book, from the brilliant introduction in which the author paraphrases the Genesis to describe the creation of the main character of this new series: the "elusive, enigmatic and undefeatable" Madame Koska, to the simple but exceptionally elegant cover, well-designed characters and a plot that captures the reader and makes you wish the book would not end.

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This book was not what I expected. The storyline was interesting but the writing felt a little choppy. I did not read it completely so will be unable to provide a better review for it.
The premise held promise and there are a lot of secrets to uncover. If you like slower books set in historic England, this will hold your attention.

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This is a most enjoyable cozy mystery novel. I do so enjoy a book where the characters are so well written and intriguing that even when the focus is not on the plot line (the disappearance of a priceless brooch), you don't mind, as the narrative around the period, the history and the mores of the time keep you enthralled throughout. It's not easy feat to achieve and the author does a superb job!

Madame Koska is a combination of exceptional style, astute business person, and loyal and devoted friend. She is also exceptionally kind as she looks to help others where she can (to give them an opportunity) at a very difficult time. She is also an extremely confident and worldly woman who works alongside the authorities to solve the mysteries (and there is more than one).!

I highly recommend this book!

With thanks to #NetGalley, BHC Press and the author for my free advanced reader copy to review in exchange for an honest opinion.

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This is a very whimsical story, and that’s part of its charm. It is, I think, also its limit.

The setting is very intriguing: London haute couture environment paired with the Russian émigré community. It’s unusual, and even if I don’t know much about either, I had the impression both subjects were well-researched, which is always a good sensation.

The characters are nice and diverse. Endearing, most of them. There was a lighthearted feeling to the entire story, but the tone became more participated when entering the matter of the flee of the White Russians from the Revolution.
These historical bits are maybe a little didascalic, but I still liked to read about it. The way so many people flee from their country. How they took refuge across the border (mostly in Turkey and China) and the harsh treatment they receive there. How everyone considered them strangers and belonging to the lowest strata of society. How some of them still managed to create a new life, often by accepting that their country was lost forever to them.
I even think that a little more focus on the refugee’s experience would have made it even more involving, but it was still interesting to read.

Madame Koska is a relatable character and fun to read. But I wonder whether she’s a bit too much over the top. The author clearly makes an extra effort to make her mysterious and intriguing, but honestly, I didn’t find that to work too well. At least for me. Maybe it was because the mystery about Madame Koska was really quite inconsequential to the story.

And about the story…
I know I’m saying this of about every mystery I’ve read recently, and maybe it’s more about me than them. I wonder if I’m becoming too much of a demanding reader, but I had quite a few issues with the mystery.
First, I was always unsure what the mystery was about. I mean, I knew that it was supposed to be about the disappearance of the Imperial Brooch, but I couldn’t decide what the point was. Why would Madame Koska investigate? What was so crucial about the brooch for any of the involved characters? The reason was so vague that it often disappeared from the story and Madame Koska’s action felt to be disconnected.
The conclusion was extremely unsatisfying. When the culprit is a character that never appeared in the story, I always feel like I’m cheated. And no, the fact that people ‘talk’ about that person in the story doesn’t count for me.

The shortcomings of the mystery aside, it was a nice, quick read, with a reasonably accurate historical setting which was unusual. I still enjoyed it.

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A nice cozy book. I enjoyed the intrigue. Set up nicely for previous or continuing storyline. Not sure about one character, if she was supposed to be downplaying her smarts.

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Russian émigré couturier Vera Koska is a fake. No, she’s a real high-end fashion designer — one of the best in London, in fact. No, Madame Koska’s intriguing past has been fashioned out of nearly whole cloth, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Madame Koska is a clever businesswoman through and through; however, she’s still kind to her employees and fair to tradesmen and suppliers. She’s worked her way up from her working-class roots into a successful, poised, cultured lady — something particularly hard to do in class-bound Europe at the turn of the 20th century. But when someone breaks into her new atelier, Madame Koska realizes that she — and her closest friend, a REAL Russian countess — are the only ones who know enough of the real past to sleuth out what’s really going on.

I loved Madame Koska almost from the start, and author Ilil Arbel has created an unflappable heroine with cleverness, courage and heart. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Madame Koska and Le Spectre de la Rose.

Some trivia. "Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch" reminds me of one of those High Renaissance Dutch paintings in which a subject looks at himself looking into a mirror looking into a mirror. The character of Madame Koska is based on a mystery series written by a character in Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire Chonicles, itself a continuation of Anthony Trollope’s initial six-novel Chronicles of Barsetshire. It’s fun trivia, but readers will thoroughly enjoy the prescient Madame Koska even without that knowledge. I, myself, didn’t know anything about it until I read the introduction. I think that, like me, they’ll be eager for a sequel.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received this book from NetGalley and BHC Press in exchange for an honest review.

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In my experience, reading mystery novels are usually a hit or a miss. So I rarely delve into them as a result. However, upon looking at Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch, I became inevitably curious. Seeing it was tagged as a mystery and historical fiction book, I almost turned away from it. But because of the Kojie-san-like cover and the synopsis mentioning a female lead with a passion for haute couture, my hesitation disappeared and suddenly I wanted to get my hands on a copy. Fortunately, after I finished the book, I can safely say that it was a definite hit.

To make the long story short, the story revolves around Madame Koska, a woman in her 40's pretending to be Russian, who opens up her new atelier in 1920s London. Everything was going fine until the burglary incident, which leads to a string of events that will link Madame Koska's atelier to the stolen imperial brooch. This piece of jewel was once owned by the late empress and was stolen from a Russian museum by a known gang. Madame Koska doesn't understand the connection yet, but her best friend, her new employees, acquaintances and good-looking language teacher might also somehow be involved in this mystery too. So Madame Koska must solve it before she can launch her first collection.

My favorite thing about this book is probably the culture and the setting. It's nice to know something new about 1920s London, the fashion styles of the period, the lives of the emigrants, as well as the lovely descriptions about beading and embroidery. Fashion may not be my thing, but I highly enjoyed reading and experiencing the designer's joy and passion written on the book.

Another thing I love was the writing itself. Though the dialogues are slightly formal, most of them were also injected with humor which is a big plus for me. By now I've realized that I hate mysteries that are way too serious. Especially the pretentious ones that try too hard to be cryptic just to achieve that mysterious effect. On the contrary, Madame Koska is just right for me. I kinda like the friendly and light-hearted atmosphere and it is a fairly quick yet satisfying read. I think the pacing is also generally well-done even though there were certain times I felt it was dragging. Maybe that's just me.

I also like the wide assortment of characters. It was quite easy to distinguish their personalities. But they also gave me a headache as well, trying to guess their real motives. In which, not a single one coincided with my expectations. So that's another plus. Furthermore, my initial favorite character here was Madame Koska but at the end of the book, it turned out to be Natalya.

The thing that amazes me most is how this book kept me on tenterhooks right to the end. The plot is so simple, yet it's so hard to predict what would happen next. Who is that character really? And what are they after? And well, I only made 20% correct guesses after all that analysis.

All in all, this mystery book was a great choice for light reading. I absolutely enjoyed it. Still, the story doesn't end here. It is just the first book in a series and there's still plenty of things to look forward to in the next one! In the meantime, I am searching for more facts about 1920s London to help me better understand some parts of the book.

Thanks a lot to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me the opportunity to review this wonderful book!


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Set in the 1920s, this book follows Madame Koska, who isn't who she appears to be, as she establishes her atelier in London. Initially there are some references to a past that seems vague, but one is able to ignore those questions as the story progresses. Descriptions of the beautiful couture she is creating are stunning, and one can easily imagine the scenarios painted by the author. But, Madame's shop seems to be the target of burglars, yet she can't figure out what they're after. As she investigates, she encounters several characters who could be suspects. This book includes lots of references to the Russian revolution and its effect on the aristocracy who subsequently fled to other parts of Europe. It was a very interesting book to read, and unbelievably, it ended too quickly for me! I was left wishing to learn more about Madame's future. Perhaps a sequel is in the works?

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An excellent cozy mystery, fun to read and engrossing.
I loved the vivid historical background, the well thought and likeable cast of characters and the solid mystery that kept me guessing.
I look forward to reading other books by this author.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.

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If you are in need of a pallet cleanser between books this one is for you! Madame Koska & The Imperial Brooch is a fairly short book at only 217 pages. The cast of characters is likable. The story is simple but holds your focus. The time period is the 1920's and the attention to fashion makes it a fun story to read. I'm still not sure why Mrs. Koska pretended to be Russian. I assumed because being Russian was in fashion. But she never really said. Feel free to enlighten me if you know. Other than that little mystery it's a perfect in-between book when you are still haunted by the book you read it before.

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I have not read any of the other series that supposedly have mentioned Madame Koska, so I came into this quite blind to the backstory. And it didn’t make a bit of difference: Madame Koska & the Imperial Brooch by Ilil Arbel is a wonderful, quick mystery set in a time and place that I know little about.

The time is the 1920s, the place is London, the world is one of high fashion. Madame Koska, a Russian emigrant escaping from the overthrow of the Tsar, leaves Paris for London to start her own atelier. From the Russian aristocrats, to the British aristocracy, to the dressmakers, policemen, and language tutors, the supporting cast is wonderfully woven into a golden age-inspired mystery – The atelier is broken into, but nothing is stolen. The shallow girl that was hired is harboring a secret life. The Russian aristocrat lady who does the intricate beadwork knows more than she’s telling. Missing fathers and husbands, opium gangs and jewel thieves, hidden identities. And in the center of it all is Madame Koska, with her own secrets and hidden past. Everything comes together in a satisfying conclusion, with the hint of more to come.

I requested and received a free advanced electronic copy from BHC Press via NetGalley. Thank you!

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Madame Koska & the Imperial Brooch by Ilil Arbel is the first book in this series.

Madame Koska despite her last name is not Russian, just pretending to be one in order to be taken seriously in high fashion world. Her husband, a true Russian has taught her everything about fashion, but he than abandoned her and she had to pick up the pieces of his deceit.
She is in London now, working hard to open her atelier and meeting some interesting people who will help her to make her studio huge success. She also takes Russian language lessons with a prominent Russian professor but there seems to be much more to him than what he wants people to see.
At the same time very curious burglaries begin to happen in Madame Koska's atelier. She will definitely need to do a little invstigating in order to save her business.

Well written mystery, set in London between two World Wars. Lovely fashion, culture and life style.
Many likable characters, portrayed very accurately each with the story behind them, So many secrets, precious jewels and royalty. This is not only a mystery but a story about that time period.
Perfect combination.
I sometimes found it a bit slow paced, but that could have been attributed to my state of mind rather than a book.

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What a delightful book, interesting plot that involves theft not murder and one I couldn't figure out, quirky characters, and an absolutely enchanting herorine.

I can't wait for the next one in this excellent new series!

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Great fun and a good mystery! Mme Koska flawlessly mimics the Russian accent but doesn't really speak a word of it. But she is a gifted designer of haute couture with a real knack for handling customers and choosing the perfect seamstresses. She has come up with a design scheme for the 1920s with a classic Russian twist and is aided by a friend who has this young woman whose beading skills are incredible. But don't forget about intrigue, others with spurious identities, thefts, and interesting law enforcement personnel. I absolutely loved it!
I requested and received a free ebook copy from BHC Press via NetGalley. Thank you

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Madame Koska employs various people to help her with her new fashion line, including an ex-Countess and a rich English girl. Things start spiraling out of control when her new boutique is broken into. After that, secrets start piling up until Madame Koska carefully pulls them apart.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's not too long and almost hits that cozy mystery button. Madame Koska has a mysterious background, but still chooses to run in elite Russian circles. Well, as elite as they can be after the Boshelivk Revolution.

I don't know a lot about what was happening after WWI, so it was interesting to find out. I also liked learning about what happened to the elite Russians who had fled from their country. A lot of the things they left behind, jewelry, etc. are important to the plot and I think even still talked about today.

I learned a few things. One, was that mannequin was another word for model, not just the blank stand we see in stores today. The other thing the book talked a lot about was Catherine the Great and it told of her lovers and a small history of her. It was just so interesting.

Madame Koska is also a joy to read about. I want to know more about her and why she is like she is. She's like Phryne Fisher, but does less of the flouting of rules as Phryne does. I think they'd get along though.

The mystery was pretty good as well. I don't want to spoil it, so I'm trying to be as vague as possible. I wasn't sure who the villain was, so I was surprised at the ending. All the red herrings actually led somewhere and most things were tied up nicely. There were some subjects brought up that I knew would come back around, and they did, just not how I expected.

I would love to read more books about Madame Koska. I do enjoy a nice read with a good mystery and this book has that.

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I picked this book because of the striking cover - it just stands out from all the rest.

This was a fun and interesting mystery, centred around Madame Koska and her business. I enjoyed reading about all the various characters, many of whom have been through difficult circumstances and are making new lives for themselves. There were plenty of suspects to keep us guessing, and I whiled away a few hours very happily reading. I hope there will be a sequel, I’d love to know more about Madame Koska.

I was given a free copy of this book. My opinions are my own.

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Thoroughly enjoyable cozy mystery set in 1920s London, in the atelier of aspiring haute couture designer Madame Koska, who may or may not be Russian royalty - or even Russian.

A priceless Czarist brooch has disappeared from a Russian museum and is rumored to have resurfaced in London. To prevent her first collection from being derailed by suspicions that the missing brooch is contained within or connected to her fashion house, Madam Koska takes the investigation into her own hands.

This book transports you to another time and place. The atelier felt real, with sparkling chandeliers, elegant beadwork, and diligent seamstresses. The Russian Christmas dinner - celebrated in exile - felt joyful, resilient, and tinged with sadness. The characters are engaging; the descriptions of dressmaking are detailed and divine; and there are more than enough suspects to go around. In a city of endless reinvention, in the shifting times after the war and the revolution, no one is exactly what they seem.

The resolution to the plot seemed contrived, and some of the characters' decisions are implausible. (Suspicious of someone? Move them into your spare bedroom!) But this was an enjoyable short read, and one that lingered in my mind. There is more here than just a cozy mystery and beautiful descriptions of beautiful clothes. The author shows the different ways in which people who have lost all and suffered much reinvent themselves, sometimes better, sometimes worse. There are lessons here about what to carry with you, and what to leave behind.

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