09 Nov Murder Most Royal by S. J. Bennett
A majestic murder mystery set at Sandringham
Aw. I secured a place on this book tour just a few days before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II passed away in September, so I approached reading it with a mixture of sadness and trepidation.
Would the plot prove too lese majeste when her family – and the country – are still grieving her loss?
Thankfully, the answer is a resounding no!
Author S.J. Bennett always treats her elderly protagonist with respect, endowing her with the qualities of shrewdness, humour and compassion which we’re now all aware that she had in spades.
The story opens with a young girl’s discovery of a severed hand on the shores of the Wash in Norfolk.
Appraised of the gristly fact, the Queen, (a sprightly 90 year-old when the story is set) newly arrived at Sandringham for Christmas, recognises the hand from a distinctive finger wound, and a ring attached, as belonging to a neighbour, Ned St Cyr.
In the rarefied Norfolk circle of royal family, friends and neighbours, everyone is a suspect, and so the Queen is double keen to solve the case.
In her usual circumspect way, she enlists the help of assistant press secretary Rozie Oshodi, who works with her to tease old secrets and scandals out of people and gradually uncover the truth.
Along the way, we’re introduced to a host of colourful characters, from young impoverished hothead Ivy Raspberry (who discovered the hand) to the aristocratic St Cyr family (who are definitely hiding something)!
Though it’s quite audacious to present the Queen as a successful amateur detective, it’s also outrageously convincing, as is the portrait of her day-to-day life with her family. It’s all portrayed with humour and warmth, the author using well-known facts about royal life, like their custom of giving silly presents to each other, to flesh out the characters of real-life royals right down to little Princess Charlotte (Prince Louis having yet to be born).
From Prince Philip’s acerbity – he describes his great-grandchildren as “little Petri dishes” for having given him the cold – to Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie’s fondness for a little gossip, to the family’s teasing of lovestruck Prince Harry (he’s just met Meghan), it’s all very funny and clever, and brings a light relief to the underlying plot.
Ned St Cyr may have been something of a cad and a charlatan in his youth, but did he deserve to die in such a grisly way?
The author uses his murder to explore themes that are common to humanity. Be we royal, aristocratic or plain common, family loyalty, scandal, sex and financial issues matter to us all, and who’s to say we wouldn’t kill to protect our interests?
Now that the Queen has gone, I hope this clever series doesn’t come to an end – it deserves many more than the three books already written.
But maybe as her brother prepares for his coronation, Princess Anne could follow in her mother’s footsteps by taking her amateur detective crown.
It’s just a thought …
Murder Most Royal by S.J. Bennett is published by Zaffre in hardback and ebook
About the Author
S.J. Bennett holds a PhD in Italian Literature from the University of Cambridge and was a strategy consultant and startup manager before turning to writing. She has published ten books for teenagers, winning The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition in 2009 and the RoNA Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2017.. She lives in London.
Her first two books featuring the Queen as a detective, The Windsor Knot and A Three Dog Problem are available now in paperback, eBook and Audio.
Thanks to Tracy of Compulsive Readers for inviting me along on this tour, and to publishers Zaffre, and Netgalley for an advance copy of this super book. Catch up with the rest of the blogtour through the links on the poster.