Published by Zaffre
Publication date – 29 October 2020
Source – review copy
The morning after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, eighty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth is shocked to discover that one of her guests has been found murdered in his room, with a rope around his neck.
When the police begin to suspect her loyal servants, Her Majesty knows they are looking in the wrong place.
For the Queen has been living an extraordinary double life ever since her coronation. Away from the public eye, she has a brilliant knack for solving crimes.
With her household’s happiness on the line, her secret must not get out. Can the Queen and her trusted secretary Rozie catch the killer, without getting caught themselves?
Bodies turning up are not that welcome at the best of times. But when the body is found in Windsor Castle, and it begins to look a lot like murder, then what is one supposed to do.? Well if you are the Queen, you investigate of course, with the help of your trusted secretary. Murder One Wrote….
This is the first in a new series from SJ Bennett, who also writes young adult novels under the name of Sophia Bennett, in which we see the Queen, ably assisted by her secretary Rozie, investigate the death of a young pianist at Winsor Castle.
It dawns on Rozie that the Queen’s questions about the death are more than idle curiosity, especially when it emerges the death was in fact murder. Then she is let into a secret by one of her predecessors. This isn’t the first time the Queen has investigated strange goings on. She’s been delving into dark deeds for some years and now it’s Rozie’s turn to assist.
There are some insights into the private life of the castle. It takes a lot of people to keep a castle running smoothly and that means lots of employees. The staff are all devoted to their job, and their boss, who in turn makes the effort to ensure that they are well looked after and the Queen becomes more determined than ever to find out the truth when it appears the authorities are pointing the finger at her staff.
The mystery itself is engaging. There are few strands to follow and the reader is sometimes as in the dark as Rozie. There are red herrings aplenty and the clues aren’t always that clear. The dénouement was perhaps a little confusing as some of it had not followed the clues laid out for the reader.
There is a warmth and humour that is abundant throughout the story. From the opening pages there is the feeling that this is a book to curl up with. It is a tongue in cheek take on the private detective and doesn’t take itself too seriously. That means the reader can suspend disbelief and accept that the Queen is in fact a Majestic Miss Marple.
Of course the Queen doesn’t hop into the Range Rover and drive around the country interrogating people herself. She’s got people to do that for her. Or rather she gently steers conversations and thoughts in a way that those who are investigating think the idea was theirs.
There are cameo appearances by Philip, who brings an acerbic wit to the table and brief mentions of celebrities visiting, including David Attenborough who stayed over on the night of the murder.
This is cosy crime writing at it’s best. Gentle humour, a warm cast of characters and a closed room mystery, albeit in a 1,000 room castle.
I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series. Recommended.
About the Author
SJ Bennett wrote several award-winning books for teenagers before turning to adult crime stories. She lives in London and has been a royal watcher for years, but is keen to stress that these are works of fiction: the Queen, to the best of her knowledge, does not secretly solve crimes.