” I wandered around the empty house, trying to shake off a feeling of dread that wouldn’t go away. If this had been my first brush with death, it would have been different. But within one week to have found a body in my bath, been dragged off a boat, then almost pushed under a train made this death almost too much of a coincidence. ” (Ch.24, p.275)
Thirty-fourth in line for the throne, descendent of Queen Victoria but from a not-so honorable branch, Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter of the Duke of Glen Garry and Rannoch, is poorer than dirt. Though a minor royal, Georgiana is expected to observe formality of the royal family and to behave as befits a member of the ruling class. The acceptable destiny to someone like her is to marry into another royal house, for she has been bred only to marry “some lunatic, buck-toothed, chinless, spineless, and utterly awful European royal, thus cementing ties with a future enemy.”
At the moment it is a choice between marrying a ghastly foreign prince or becoming lady-in-waiting to a great-aunt, Queen Victoria’s last surviving daughter, in the depths of the countryside where the height of entertainment will be holding her knitting wool or playing rummy. (Ch.7, p.84)
In spring 1932, Georgiana decides to flee her half-brother’s castle in Scotland to escape a forced marriage to a Romanian prince. But upon the summon from Queen Victoria, a cousin by marriage, Georgiana is to spy on her philandering son, Prince Edward (the same one who later abdicated the throne for his American divorcee, thus making George VI the King). The most unusual assignment, the troubling discovery of a dead body in the bathtub of her London house, and a series of accidents that later proved to be intentional for her harm, and even death, keep foiling her efforts to make an honest living.
It was a piece of strong black thread. I couldn’t think how it got there until it dawned on me that somebody could have strung it across the top of those steps—someone who knew that I would probably be the only person who used them tonight. My attacker was indeed in the house with me. (Ch.25, p.287)
Her Royal Spyness is a multifaceted mystery and comedy of errors. As Georgiana labors to solve the murder of the waterlogged body—a Frenchman who is creditor of her brother, an eclectic cast of characters come forth to provide the inside, satirical view of the snobbery and pretension of upper-crust British society. This book is a pleasant read, but readers shall note that the mystery takes a while to be introduced. Once Georgiana’s background and predicament are established, and the murder kicks into motion, the book really takes off and inevitably cumulates into the spying for the Queen—at a house party to be attended by Prince Edward.
324 pp. Berkeley Prime Crime. Pocket Paper. [Read/
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