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Literature / The Clairvoyant Countess

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The Clairvoyant Countess and its sequel Kaleidoscope are novels by Dorothy Gilman about Madame Karitska.

The titular protagonist is a psychic somewhere between middle and old age, once a refugee from the Russian Revolution, and only technically a countess. She befriends a policeman, Lt. Pruden, and helps him in his investigations.

Tropes included in this work:

  • Above Good and Evil: The Big Bad downplays it; when asked whether he used his powers for good or for evil, he chuckles and calls it a conventional question.
  • Affably Evil: Mr. Faber-Jones is stunned, after Zoehfeld's arrest, that so charming a person could be a murderer and spy.
  • A Friend in Need: Madame Karitska, to several people
  • Bad Humor Truck: A significant ice cream truck company run by a very scary bad guy.
  • The Bluebeard: Though his motive was very like the Black Widow. The stepfather murdered his stepdaughter after her mother had left her all the money; it turned out he had murdered the mother as well, and a fair number of earlier brides.
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  • Blue Blood: Madame Karitska is technically a countess. Given that she was a small child when her family escaped the Russian Revolution, it doesn't mean much to her. She calls herself "Madame" rather than Countess because she doesn't really care.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Foretold by Madame Karitska, rather than appearing herself. Madame Karitska does a reading on Lt. Pruden and tells him that he will be married within fifteen months, to a woman with long, very pale blond hair and considerable psychic ability. When, later in the book, he is not able to talk straight upon meeting a woman with long, very pale blond hair and considerable psychic ability, he doesn't get it, but Madame Karitska smiles upon him and assures him that it is a very good thing.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: One way Madame Karitska's powers manifest. It leads to her finding her current location; she dreams of a brownstone with a sign in a window: "Madame Karitska, Readings." When she happens on the brownstone with a sign "Apartment for Rent", the landlord is suspicious because he had put up the sign five minutes earlier, but she gets her office.
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  • Driven to Suicide: Mazda Lorvale commits suicide in a mental institution.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Mr. Faber-Jones, after his wife leaves him.
  • Due to the Dead: Flowers on Mazda Lorvale's grave
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: Lt. Pruden discovers heroin by this method.
  • Grudging "Thank You": Joe Painter, after Madame Karitska stops him from shoplifting and getting caught.
  • Heroic Russian Émigré: Madame Karitska.
  • Identification by Dental Records: When Madame Karitska gets enough evidence, Lt. Pruden has a grave exhumed to double-check with this.
  • Impoverished Patrician: The countess's background. Her parents lost their wealth fleeing the Russian Revolution; she has settled down to working for her living.
  • Indian Burial Ground: Madame Karitska warns against disturbing this.
  • Lonely Funeral: Mazda Lorvale's funeral had no mourners.
  • The Mafia: Madame Karitska finds some things that lead Lt. Prudens and the police to realize that the Syndicate is moving in.
  • Mind over Matter: Madame Karitska, teaching two psychics, has them turn pages in a book.
  • Pater Familicide: One of the other psychics is rescued from one of these.
  • Pet the Dog: Madame Karitska sends Lt. Pruden away to deal with an appointment: a small boy who has lost his kitten.
  • Police Psychic: The titular character is a seer and psychometry user who becomes an Amateur Sleuth after a chance encounter with a policeman, Detective Pruden. Although she does utilize her psychic abilities to help him out, her greatest gift, as stated on the back of the book, is her common sense.
  • Psychometry: Madame Karitska can read the past, present, and future off of objects, including the personalities of people.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Joe Painter's song is about one.
  • Starving Artist: Madame Karitska's landlord. He can't afford to be slack about rent because he needs the money.
  • Talk About the Weather: After Mr. Faber-Jones learns about his doctor, he struck by how different the conversation is.
  • Talking in Your Dreams: After one reading, Madame Karitska finds this happening.
  • There Are No Coincidences: Madame Karitska discusses this with Mr. Faber-Jones.
  • War Refugees: Madame Karitska was originally a refugee from the Russian Revolution, many decades before the story.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Gavin screams and collapses at this time, after she prevented his being sent home.
  • Wicked Stepmother: The young woman who visits her, the first described customer, thinks her stepfather is the only person she can trust, and is horribly wrong.


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