Her Majesty the Queen Investigates: The Windsor Knot by S J Bennett

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Her Majesty the Queen Investigates: The Windsor Knot by S J Bennett

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Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Exceptional cosy crime and highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: October 2020
Publisher: Zaffre
ISBN: 978-1838773168

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It's early 2016 and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is at Windsor for the Easter Court. She's having a dine and sleep at the request of Prince Charles, who's attempting to raise money from some rich Russians for one of his pet projects. There'd been a distinctly Russian flavour to the evening and one of the performers brought in to play the piano has been found dead in what can only be called embarrassing circumstances. The immediate reaction is that one of the guests is responsible. The Queen mentally rules out her racing manager, an ex-ambassador to Moscow, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Sir David Attenborough. One couldn't bear to go down any of those roads.

The Queen's private secretary, Sir Simon Holcroft, is naturally keen that the reputation of the crown should be protected and is keen not to divulge too much that might disturb the 89-year-old monarch. The Boss, as she's affectionately known by her staff, is neither senile nor stupid and it's not long before she has extracted all the relevant information and come to a few conclusions of her own. But, one is conscious that one cannot be seen to interfere. Ravi Singh, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Gavin Humphreys, Director General of MI5, must be allowed to get on with their jobs, although the Duke of Edinburgh has some pithy comments to make about the competence of one of those gentlemen in the privacy of one's own castle.

Obviously, the Queen cannot investigate directly, but she has an assistant private secretary, Rozie Oshodi, who might only have been in the job for six months but who looks promising. Rozie can do the leg work and the Boss can... Well, what the Boss does brilliantly is to manipulate people into believing that they have solved the crime. Words might be dropped into certain ears, small suggestions made, but never will anyone other than Rozie know exactly what part the queen has played.

This is cosy crime but it's cosy crime of a very superior class, almost royal, you might say. The characterisation is first class. Sophia Bennett captures the Queen's voice perfectly: it was rather like reading a script tor The Crown. There are all the phrases we recognise so well, the mannerisms and the enthusiasms but what struck me most forcibly was the distance which the Queen keeps between herself and those around her who are not family. Staff are just that: they are treated kindly, particularly when there are difficulties but it's clear that they are not friends. There's a firmness about one: there's never any doubt about who is in charge. The Duke is his usual, irascible self but the strength of the marriage is obvious.

Rozie Oshodi is a superb foil for the Queen. She's hot and tall and back as the son of one victim (yes - the corpses do stack up) described her and I loved it when she got a round of applause when she disabled an attacker on the tube. I want to see more of that woman!

The locations are brought to life too. Windsor's is one's favourite home, certainly preferable to the 'palace on a roundabout', although Balmoral and Sandringham are in the blood. You get a sense of comfort about Windsor, or as much comfort as there can be in a Gothic castle. There are glorious touches though - such as the smell of old dog in some of the older cars which is never quite eradicated by chemical cleaners.

It's the plot you want to know about, isn't it? Well, it's decidedly more complex than most cosy crime and the DG of MI5 was more than delighted when he was nudged and guided into working it out for the benefit of the Queen. I loved every page of this book - and I'm not normally a fan of cosy crime - and I wasn't best pleased when I turned the final page. I do hope that Her Majesty has a few more cases which she's been keeping under her crown.

I thought The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman was a cracker. The Windsor Knot is better and I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

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