Malice at the Palace
A Royal Spyness Mystery, Book #9
By Rhys Bowen
Author Website: rhysbowen.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Lady Georgiana Rannoch won’t deny that being thirty-fifth in line for the British throne has its advantages. Unfortunately, money isn’t one of them. And sometimes making ends meet requires her to investigate a little royal wrongdoing.
While my beau Darcy is off on a mysterious mission, I am once again caught between my high birth and empty purse. I am therefore relieved to receive a new assignment from the Queen—especially one that includes lodging. The King’s youngest son, George, is to wed Princess Marina of Greece, and I shall be her companion at the supposedly haunted Kensington Palace.
My duties are simple: help Marina acclimate to English life, show her the best of London and, above all, dispel any rumors about George’s libertine history. Perhaps that last bit isn’t so simple.
George is known for his many affairs with women as well as men—including the great songwriter Noel Coward. But things truly get complicated when I search the Palace for a supposed ghost only to encounter an actual dead person: a society beauty said to have been one of Prince George’s mistresses.
Nothing spoils a royal wedding more than murder, and the Queen wants the whole matter hushed. But as the investigation unfolds—and Darcy, as always, turns up in the most unlikely of places—the investigation brings us precariously close to the prince himself. (Goodreads)
Malice at the Palace is the delightful ninth installment in the popular Royal Spyness Mystery series. This tale finds cash poor Lady Georgiana once again tightening her purse strings and looking for a place to lay her head after getting the boot from her best friend Belinda. She jumps at the Queen’s offer to act as companion and chaperone for Prince George’s betrothed Princess Marina of Greece. Not only is Georgie to show Marina the sights, but she must also deflect any references to George’s sometimes ungentlemanly behavior. It is no real secret that he has left a string of affairs, with both men and women, in his wake, and Marina might have second thoughts about the wedding should she find out. Georgie, with her maid Queenie in tow, settle into a not-so-plush apartment at Kensington Palace where numerous ghosts are said to reside.
On her way back to her apartment after a dinner with her royal relatives, Georgie sees a light in the courtyard and investigates, just in case it really is a ghost. What she finds instead is the lifeless body of Bobo Carrington, socialite party girl and ex girlfriend of the prince. It appears that Bobo was strangled – who could have possibly done this and why leave her at the palace? Prince George could not have been responsible…could he? Georgie is asked by the authorities to discreetly investigate her royal family. This leads Georgie on the trail of clues that include drugs, an illegitimate child, unexplained money, and secrets. Perhaps worst of all, the police briefly set their sights on Georgie’s secretive beloved, implying that Darcy had a relationship with Bobo.
Ms. Bowen does a fantastic job of weaving actual events and real people with a fictional murder mystery. I enjoyed learning tidbits about the royals (which led me to consult Google to learn more) and attitudes of the aristocrats in the nineteen thirties. Ms. Bowen’s writing drew me into the story quickly, and I felt compelled to keep reading often to the neglect of other activities. There were several scenarios presented that would have satisfactorily explained Bobo’s death, but Georgie’s final discovery that led to the killer seemed just right. I always find it interesting when the guilty party is someone the reader actually likes. I think it adds to the surprise.
Georgie is a kind, slightly naive character who has the uncanny ability to roll with whatever life throws at her. Her caught between two worlds life as the thirty-fifth in line to the British throne is entertaining, and readers never knows where Georgie will take them. The royals were likable and, though eccentric, not caricatures of themselves. Though Darcy does not appear much here, he is a smooth, charming foil to Georgie’s more simple nature. The glamour of the Thirties makes for a wonderful backdrop. My only quibble is the character of Princess Marina’s cousin Countess Irmtraut. Her failure to grasp the meaning of English phrases and slang was funny at first but quickly became tedious.
I am partial to historical and cozy mysteries, and the combination of the two in the Royal Spyness books is a real treat. Malice at the Palace is a light-hearted, fun romp through the finest locations in London, and I cannot wait for the next installment. Highly recommended.