Murder Most Royal by S.J.Bennett – an enjoyable investigation by Her Majesty the Queen

Murder Most Royal by S.J. Bennett

This is a book which features the most famous woman in Britain and was published just after her death. Set in the Christmas and New Year stay 2016 – 2017 at Sandringham, this is Queen Elizabeth at her (fictional) best, ninety years old but still keen to discover what is going on in the area. This is the third book in the series, and while it would work perfectly well as a standalone, it does pick up on the characters, style and ideas of the previous two novels, which are very much worth seeking out. Again, there is a humour that runs throughout the novel, of a Queen who people try to shield but who really knows exactly what is going on, of her adult children who resolve to distract her but like everyone else are keen to speculate on a gruesome local discovery, and those who have their own agendas.

In this book the Queen is drawn into the investigation by the simple of fact that she recognises to whom the severed hand discovered on the beach belongs to instantly. The beach is very local to the Sandringham estate, and the hand belongs to a man who was well known to the royal family throughout his life. The implications of a hand appearing in this gruesome way are not slow to dawn on an interested Queen, and knowing his family are nearby and involved in the local community means that clues and possibilities are close to hand. As previously, the Queen’s Assistant Private Secretary Rozie Oshodie is drafted into help with the secret cogitations of the best-connected sleuth in the world and is once more charged with the tracking down of the potential witnesses to what seems a baffling crime – of a potential murder without a body.

Edward St Cyr was quite a character, who had been an unconventional person even in the 1960s, having had many relationships, including previous marriages and a pending wedding to a much younger woman, who is also known to the Queen. The entanglements of inheritance and confusions of “Ned’s” past attracts local and royal gossip and speculation, and the Queen and Rozie must sift through the threads to see the truth. It is obviously difficult for such a public figure to investigate or even show too much interest in the matter; quite early on a unpremeditated visit by a top police officer leads to unfavourable headlines. The Queen nevertheless encounters some unorthodox local information in the course of a visit to her stables, and a local problem presents itself. Rozie is challenged to return to a predecessor who picks up some local gossip and news of a hit and run which may have a bearing on the case. The challenge to take part in a local sport dismays even the military trained woman, but the discovery of a body locally gives her little option. As the Queen quietly puts together all the information she has, she cannot consult anyone else or openly make accusations, and who will listen to an inquisitive Queen?

This book may well come under the genre of “cosy” crime, and certainly it is not gory or indeed violent in most senses. Its central premise of a Queen who wants to see justice is subtly handled, and with a lightness of touch that is respectful and shows a deep knowledge of how things are, or were, done in the Queen’s circle. Indeed, the author has conducted a lot of research and has a lot of personal knowledge to enable her to draw a convincing setting of palaces and grand houses, and the way that people react in the presence of royalty and the complex ties of aristocracy. This is a well written book which deals with some interesting themes and provides a relatable view of the late Queen albeit it on a fictional basis. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book and recommend it as an enjoyable read.