Plenty of salacious tidbits make The Red Widow fun to read, but Ms. Horowitz...delivers more than a lurid tale of murder. She examines the moral attitude of a society in which women like Steinheil had little independence and were forced to rely on men for their survival ... Ms. Horowitz’s book is well researched, but her portrait of Steinheil doesn’t go very deep, and her descriptions of Belle Époque Paris and its salons are surprisingly flat. For a better picture, look to Steinheil’s own lively, unreliable memoir.
No law of literature demands that a fabulous and flamboyant figure be served by an equally flamboyant treatment. But Red Widow inters rather than resurrects a fascinating woman, a figure at once seductive, hysterical, adulterous, mendacious, captivating and cultured ... Horowitz often reverts to clichés ... How exactly was she able to compel the attention of the greatest minds and talents of the Belle Epoque? And what was it like to live in this era, so notable for its cultural ferment, scientific achievements, colonial intrigues, masterpieces of literature, music, theater and painting? More exhilarating, presumably, than the anachronistic dryness of this conscientious text ... It is a pity that Steinheil’s voice has been effaced, as has her very French, very sly wit, as have the newspapers which chronicled her fortune.
Horowitz paints a dazzling yet nuanced portrait of femme fatale Marguerite Steinheil ... A tale of barely hidden affairs, unsolved murder, and scandal is skillfully interwoven with the larger historical context of the Dreyfus affair, women’s history, and France creeping towards WWI. Fans of true crime and women’s history will find this a page-turning read.
Colorful ... Horowitz skillfully contextualizes this lurid tale with details about the Dreyfus affair and other contemporaneous events, and draws a nuanced portrait of Steinheil. This hits the sweet spot between true crime and women’s history.