3 March 2009

Review: A ROYAL PAIN, Rhys Bowen

Berkley Prime Crime Mysteries, 2008, 307 pages, ISBN 978-0-425-22163-1

Georgie, Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, related to the king of England through his grandmother Queen Victoria, is 34th in line to the English throne. She belongs to a branch of the royal family rather down on its luck, and survives by cleaning houses. She is a favourite though of the Queen who asks that she play hostess to a Bavarian princess whom Queen Mary would rather like to get her son David, at present dallying with "the American woman", interested in.

From the moment that Princess Hanni, and her attendant "pain in the neck" the Baroness, arrive on Georgie's doorstep at Rannoch House, murder seems to follow them. Hanni appears to have learnt her English through watching American gangster movies and constantly displays her command of the language with inappropriate gangster speak. To keep up pretences, Georgie has to co-opt her Cockney grandfather and his lady friend Mrs 'uggins as her hired help. Their presence in the novel provides added elements of humour.

I kept changing my mind on how I would rate this. I thought at first that it was a bit more chick-lit, a bit lighter than I normally like to read, but I was struck by its historical depth, and in the end I came to like the main character Georgie. The picture Bowen draws of Queen Mary (May) whom I remember as a rather severe looking dowager, is an interesting one, and I can understand her concern with her son's romantic involvement with "the American woman". My mother's generation world wide were horrified by his eventual abdication and took almost malicious comfort in the knowledge that Wallis Simpson could never become queen.

So yes, A ROYAL PAIN is in some senses a romp, but in others a bit of serious historical fiction. I won't be alone in working out "whodunnit" fairly early on, but as always there is the quest to see if you are right.

My rating 4.3

A ROYAL PAIN is the second in the "Royal Spyness" series featuring Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie.
1. Her Royal Spyness (2007)
2. A Royal Pain (2008)
3. Royal Flush (2009) - still to be published?

Rhys Bowen has a staggering number of awards and nominations under her belt.
A ROYAL PAIN has been nominated for an Agatha Award for best mystery; and Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery nominee - the latter will be decided next week at Left Coast Crime, where Rhys Bowen will be an author I want to meet.


Marg said...

This sounds like something I would really enjoy. Unfortunately the library has only got some other books from a different series.

Kerrie said...

I think you probably would enjoy it Marg.

PK the Bookeemonster said...

I've not read Rhys' series yet. I saw her in panel at the first and only LCC I've gotten to (Denver last year) and think she would be a great person with whom to chat. Please, those of us at home are living vicariously through you so try to post as much as you can and I'm trying to be green with envy. I gotta plug: Historical mysteries are my favorite sub-category and there are some really terrific authors out there along with Rhys Bowen.

PK the Bookeemonster said...

Oops, that trying "not" to be green with envy. I'm so twitterpated I can't even type about it. :)


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