About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Mata Hari’s Last Dance by Michelle Moran - Appearance

Mata Hari’s Last Dance by Michelle Moran – Through the kindness of publishers I have been reading a work of romantic suspense a year. For 2016 it is Mata Hari’s Last Dance. I find it a reading challenge for it is a story whose ending is known before starting to read the book. Even if a reader does not know that Mata Hari was executed by the French during World War I for allegedly being a German spy the book opens with a newspaper article describing her conviction and execution.

What I did not know prior to reading the book and found completely intriguing was her personal history.
Arriving in Paris in 1904 she is slipping into desperate circumstances as she struggles to find a position as a dancer. Facing life on the streets she is seen at an audition by Edouard Clunet, a well known Parisian lawyer, with excellent connections. He offers to act as her agent/manager. A grateful Mata Hari accepts his proposal.
Shortly she meets with prominent members of Parisian society. Men are attracted to the beautiful exotic young woman. Their wives appear to tolerate their liaisons. She is the very definition of a courtesan. Her male admirers show her with valuable jewels.
Mata Hari, introduced as the Star of the East, learned to dance while she was living in Java, then a part of the Dutch East Indies. Edouard arranges for her to perform before 200 guests of Emile Guimet.
She performs a sensuous, even scandalous performance. She tells the audience:

“One translates the divine attributes of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva – creation, fecundity, destruction. This is the dance I dance tonight. The dance of destruction as it leads to creation.”
By the conclusion her veils have slid away and she is dressed in only the magnificent jewelry provided for the evening.
She is an instant sensation. Gentlemen admirers flock to her apartment and escort her about the city. She is especially attracted to men in uniforms. A finely dressed officer with money always excites Mata Hari.
Other private performances are arranged. Then Edouard arranges for her to perform in Madrid:

On opening night, I am Cleopatra, queen of the Nile. The female dancers Ramon has given me are dressed in Grecian sheaths and golden breastplates. The male dancers wear nothing but short, white kilts. On stage, in front of a thousand people, I dance her agony with Caesar, her ecstasy with Anthony, her untimely death. I wear more jewels than the queen of England and a constricting snake (it seemed unwise to wear an asp). I don’t wear anything else. The next morning I am front-page news in every paper.

Moran portrays her dances and jewels and clothes very well. I longed to see what dramatic looks she developed. She was brilliant in self-promotion.
Looking around the internet I found numerous photos of the real life Mata Hari. The image at the top of a post is a photo to which colour has been added. Beside this paragraph is an original black and white photo. 
She is still dancing and taking lovers as World War I envelopes Europe. There is a gradually increasing sense of dread as the war progresses and a reader knows her fate.
Mata Hari’s Last Dance is an interesting work. Its strength is in the descriptions of Mata Hari and her glamorous lifestyle. In an era where options for women were limited she maximized her opportunities to gain fame. My next post will discuss some historical issues and how they affected me. A third post will look at her trial.


  1. What an interesting book, Bill! Certainly Mata Hari had a fascinating life, and she sounds as though she was an intriguing person, too. I wonder sometimes what sort of person she was before she got famous. I'll be looking forward to your next posts about the book.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. While I was caught up in her life in Paris there is lots of information on the hard life she lived before gaining fame. I wish I could have seen her dance.

  2. Replies
    1. Jonathan: Thanks for the comment. I am glad you dropped by the blog.

  3. A very interesting book, Bill. And some great pictures of her.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. The book inspired me to look up photos and there are lots of them on the net.