Don’t ever let anyone tell you that a man can’t create a living, breathing, believable female character. I am continually astonished at the sensitivity with which David Neilson builds his main character’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. I think Sophie truly does live in his head, and she directs the stories he writes. If he were to fail to meet her standards, she just might pull her gun on him—a gun she carries primed and loaded in case she needs it in a hurry. But David knows to follow her lead.
In an online interview, he tells us that Sophie does, indeed, resonate in his head. “She knows she’s the star turn and she doesn’t tolerate rivals. I can catch her sometimes thinking whether she’s tough enough in one scene, or vulnerable enough, or self-righteous enough.… the best moments for me come when Sophie says or does something outrageous, for example, getting to get into a ball for free by pretending that a non-existent husband will pay, or trying to con a Jesuit rector into believing she’s a rich patroness.”
Who is this woman, you ask. “An investigator in Mozart’s Vienna, she’s tousle-headed, modest of bosom, large of hand, acid-tongued, and inclined to be self-righteous. Getting involved in the direst conspiracies of her day, she needs all her wits to come out in one piece.” That’s how David described her in an interview with Sue Seabury on her blog, The Technopeasant. Mozart’s Vienna in the 1770s hardly evokes a society in which a liberated woman might thrive as a private investigator. But Sophie manages to be the woman all women want to be.
The Prussian Dispatch and Lay Brothers, books one and two of the Sophie Rathenau Vienna Mysteries, bring you the adventures of this remarkable woman. In the first, Sophie is caught up in an international conspiracy when she is hired to locate a missing government dispatch sent from Prussia to Vienna. To complicate matters, she must keep a vengeful Chancellor at bay and deal with a past that threatens to engulf her. In the second, she’s managed to escape to Munich where intrigue comes in the form of a request from a friend who needs help finding a missing priest. In searching for him, she raises the ire of the increasingly corrupt Jesuit Order whose efforts to silence the priest turn deadly.
I promise you that if you love strong women characters and historical fiction at its finest, you will fall in love with Sophie Rathenau and the stories she drives David Neilson to tell. Visit Sophie’s website, which is a treasure trove of information about Vienna in the 1700’s, the politics, the people, the architecture, and the fashion.
Visit David’s Pinterest page, another place to see images of the people, places, and fashion of Sophie’s world. You can also view the trailers for each book:
The third book, to be released soon, is Serene. In it we will find her protecting the rebellious Austrian Archduchess Isabella in Venice, a place Sophie had been warned never to return unless she is prepared to die. If something happens to the Archduchess and Sophie manages to escape Corona Mundt’s threat, the Austrian Chancellor will exact his revenge. It’s a lose-lose situation. Having had a preview of this third book, I’m eager for it to be published.