Everyone has those authors that are "auto-buy" authors. For me, Michelle Moran is one of those authors. She always manages to seamlessly blend history and fiction. When I saw her latest endeavor at the bookstore -- Mata Hari's Last Dance -- I had to pick it up. No questions asked.
In Mata Hari's Last Dance we follow the famous exotic dancer/courtesan/spy through the start of her career up through her tragic end. The story is told by Mata Hari herself and is peppered with flashbacks to her childhood and formative years. We travel Europe with the dancer as she conquers news headlines and hearts and causes not a few scandals everywhere she goes.
Compared to her other novels, I feel as though Mata Hari was a smaller book. I was able to read it in about a day. I don't mind smaller novels, however, I left Mata Hari's book wanting more. She was such a colorful character (to put it mildly) that I couldn't help but want to dive in deeper. I'll confess - I don't know much more about Mata Hari historically other than that she was an exotic dancer/courtesan and accused of/executed for spying during WWI. Moran paints a picture of a woman with a troubled past who's formative years may have shaped her later life and ultimately led to her final fate.
The pacing of this book was...odd? The bulk of the book is spent showing Mata Hari doing what she (I guess?) did best - dancing and seducing. It almost became a bit repetitive until Moran branched off into more frequent glimpses of Mata Hari's past life. Just about the point where I finally felt like we were actually getting a glimpse of the TRUE woman behind the Mata Hari mask, Moran takes the story down yet a different vein - espionage. At this point I was almost 2/3 of the way through the book and the text just seemed to sprint through the final, tragic events in Mata Hari's life.
In the end, I really did enjoy this book. Moran is a master of historical fiction and this book, in my opinion, is no different. Was it my favorite book from Moran? I'd have to say probably not. While enjoyable, I feel like other books contain more developed characters and I always kept wanting Mata Hari to be better fleshed out. Will Moran keep being one of my "auto buy" authors? Absolutely - without a doubt. I can't wait to read whatever she releases next!