The Clairvoyant Countess (Dorothy Gilman)

December 20, 2018 Book Reviews 6 ★★★★

The Clairvoyant Countess (Dorothy Gilman)The Clairvoyant Countess by Dorothy Gilman
Series: Madame Karitska #1
Published by Fawcett on May 28, 2014 (first published 1975)
Genres: Cozy Mystery, Fiction, Paranormal mystery
Pages: 240
Format: Kindle or ebook
Source: purchased
Purchase: Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Audible
Add to Goodreads

Also by this author: The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax, Thale's Folly, Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish

As a psychic to the public, Madame Karitska has seen a lot. But when a chance encounter with Detective-Lieutenant Pruden of the Police Department catapults her into the unforseen, she must use all of her resources to keep danger—and death—at bay....


It’s hard to know how to classify Gilman’s The Clairvoyant Countess. It’s not a typical mystery novel, though there are several mysteries within it. It is episodic, but more cohesive than a collection of short stories within a frame. But there’s something captivating about it, in spite of or perhaps because of its genre-defying qualities.

The character of Madame Karitska, the titular clairvoyant countess, is what holds the book together. A past rich in experiences (though not always in funds) and a very open mind have left her with a wisdom and an ability to accept and enjoy life as it comes that are rare in someone in their seventies, let alone a widow in her late forties. And Madame Karitska’s very real psychic abilities—she is clairvoyant, and works best through psychometry—have given her insight, compassion, and a willingness to look beyond outward appearances, beyond the obvious. She is perceptive, generous and optimistic: a most attractive personality.

As the novel progresses, Madame Karitska collects an unusual assortment of friends and colleagues: a skeptical policeman (hence some of the mysteries), a middle-aged businessman, a schoolboy, and a rising music star. Not all the puzzles Madam Karitska encounters end on a positive note for all concerned, but all are resolved in one way or another. The puzzles/mysteries are interesting, the characters more so, though we don’t get to know any of them intimately, including Madame Karitska.

Beyond the attributes I’ve described here, there’s an indefinable quality about the book that I find very appealing…which is why I’ve returned to it four or five times in the three decades since I first read it, each time with the feeling that I’m encountering an old friend I haven’t seen in years.




About Dorothy Gilman

Author photo: Dorothy Gilman

Dorothy Gilman (1923–2012) was an American novelist, best known for her bestselling series of mystery/spy novels featuring Mrs. Pollifax. Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, to minister James Bruce and Essa (Starkweather) Gilman, Dorothy showed an interest in writing from an early age, and won a story contest at age 11. She married teacher Edgar A. Butters, Jr., in 1945; they had two sons. The marriage ended in divorce in 1965.

Dorothy worked as an art teacher & telephone operator before becoming an author in the late 1940s. She wrote children’s stories for more than ten years under the name Dorothy Gilman Butters. Her first adult novel, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (1966), stars a most unlikely spy: a retired grandmother who, bored with her ordinary life, decides to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a spy. Engaged as a CIA courier by mistake, Mrs. Pollifax soon finds herself well out of her depth, but relies on her common sense, determination, and optimism — not to mention grit — to see her through. The book was a success, and became the start of a 14-book series; the final book was published in 2000.

Gilman wrote several other adult novels, including two featuring the psychic Madame Karitska (The Clairvoyant Countess and Kaleidescope), The Nun in the Closet, and Thale’s Folly. She also wrote a memoir of the years she spent living along in a small house on the Atlantic shore of Nova Scotia, titled A New Kind of Country.

(Sources: Wikipedia; Goodreads)

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Winter 2018-2019

6 Responses to “The Clairvoyant Countess (Dorothy Gilman)”

  1. Lark

    I’ve never been interested in reading Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax series, but this book of hers appeals to me a lot more. Must be that whole clairvoyant thing. 🙂
    Lark recently posted…Haiku Reviews…My Profile