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Murder Most Royal by Sophia Bennett


It is December 2016. Much has happened in the life of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Indeed, as a monarch well into her 90s there is little that can still surprise or even inspire her anymore. However, being the third such premise in a series of novels, one quickly realises just how canny the old girl is when it comes to solving the unsolvable cases of the local area.


So, when a dismembered hand washes up on the beach during one of Her Majesty’s sojourns to the Scottish estate of Balmoral, the Queen (or ‘the boss’ as her staff refer to her) is rearing for action. In the background, the old Duke is ill with some kind of flu - and its going around the family inhibiting much action on the estate - and the ever-familiar dramatis personae makes for some wonderfully funny and interesting sequences. Even young Harry - newly enraptured with an American beauty - makes an entrance.


Bennett is a lover of all things Royal. Indeed, she spent an inordinate amount of time researching in Scotland for this newly minted edition of Her Majesty as the super sleuth. As the third in the series, there is a definite lack of same-ness about the collection - which is a very good thing, especially considering the dreariness of court life as it must be. The endless handshaking and small talk making must be tiresome at best and downright mind-numbingly boring and infuriating at worst. It is easy to see why Her Majesty must crave some sort of break out, like a security guard must just long for someone to do something.


As the novel progresses, and the dismembered hand is found to belong to one Edward St Cyr (an old connection to the family), the Queen is on the case. In addition, a couple of her trusted staff lend a hand and doing some of the detective work directed by the boss, in places where it would be impossible for her to show her face like, you know, in public. Perhaps she is more of a super super sleuth? Putting the pieces together takes some doing when working remotely, and you’re the Queen, but she manages to start arranging the crumbs left by the murderer in true Sherlock Holmesian style. It is a joy to see the whole thing unravel.


At the beginning of the novel, Bennett acknowledges the tireless service of the Queen, and the inspiration she has been while writing the book. She appreciates the level of decorum she has maintained throughout her life, and explains some of her own fascination with the woman that heads one of the most powerful (and dysfunctional) families in the world.


Bennett’s writing style is a must-read. Each description has a cinematic style to it, and presents the rather preposterous idea of Her Majesty undertaking some of this outrageous detective work with an authenticity and depth of character knowledge. It’s almost believable.


Like the Queen herself in one of the scenes, galivanting around the countryside on a horse in search of clues to establish motive and catch the perpetrator, the book is such fun and takes the reader through the countryside of Balmoral and into the heart and mind of the woman who reigns supreme in both political and personal life.


It’s a book that you can’t put down and feel a real connection with those involved, yet just so entertaining and funny. Well worth a read!


Reviewer: Chris Reed

Zaffre


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