The Windsor Knot by S. J. Bennett – Her Majesty the Queen in her fictional investigative mode for the first time!

The Windsor Knot: The Queen investigates a murder in this delightfully  clever mystery for fans of The Thursday Murder Club: Bennett,  SJ: 9781838773168: Books

The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett | Waterstones

The Windsor Knot by S J Bennett

The first book in an excellent series is something to celebrate, and in the case of this book from 2020 it is certainly deserved. Set in April 2016, it reveals a great (ok, fictional) secret – Her Majesty The Queen Investigates Murder! Not that the royal personage walks the mean streets or is seen going about with a magnifying glass, but she uses her unique position and exclusive contacts to make sure that the truth comes to light. This light- hearted book has a core of real steel which I greatly enjoyed, as it challenges lots of assumptions in a way that is respectful as well as eye opening. Well researched as to the sort of activities an older queen still pursues, the worries about a challenging family and the sort of questions very few of us have to answer as to which set of jewels to wear or which private secretary to trust, this is a lively novel which sets out some thoughtful ideas. While there is a murder to cope with, there is also a lot about the living, and the complexity of lives. The Queen herself emerges as a thoughtful person, who is highly skilled in reading people, while her chosen helper, Rozie, is a resourceful person with a great deal of courage. This is a book to sink into and really enjoy, and I really recommend it.

The book begins with a mystery. The staff that surround the Queen want to protect her from some of the harsh realities of life, so she is informed merely in passing that a young man, a guest, has died. He was a musician at an unremarkable “dine and sleep” at Windsor castle, when she entertained guests for a variety of reasons, including the requests of Prince Charles “who wanted to use it to curry favour with some rich Russians for one of his pet projects that needed a cash injection”. The Queen had added a few guests of her own choosing, including Sir David Attenborough, who had at least the merit of being around her own age. It is only when she enquires directly that she discovers that the young man, who she had briefly danced with, was in fact discovered in a compromising position. She decides that the informal unfortunate misadventure verdict does not add up for a variety of reasons, and decides to do some investigating of her own. In order to summon up the right people to consult she involves Rozie, a newly appointed member of her household with an interesting past, including being a highly successful army officer. Rozie soon discovers that when the Queen wishes to get to the bottom of a matter, however potentially embarrassing or complex, she does so. After all, who would refuse a request from Her Majesty when she wants information. Not that always makes her job easier – or even safer – when she is operating in secret from an inquisitive household and wider world. In satisfying more than idle curiosity, the Queen has to work subtly, but she has been working this way for decades so she is highly skilled.

This is a very enjoyable book which is well written and engaging throughout. It reveals much about a life that everyone knows something of in a consistent and fascinating way, and it marks the start of an excellent series. 

A Three Dog Problem by S.J. Bennett – An unfortunate death and a wandering painting leads to a royal investigation

A Three Dog Problem: The Queen investigates a murder at Buckingham Palace: Bennett, SJ: 9781838774820: Books

A Three Dog Problem by S.J.Bennett

“The Queen investigates murder!” It’s a headline that has never appeared, but in Bennett’s world of palaces, dogs and a huge band of people who make royal life work, Queen Elizabeth II takes more than a passing interest in the unexplained events that take place in that world. This is the second book in a series of cleverly constructed mysteries, where “the Boss” may not do the hands-on investigating, but knows how to ask various people to do so on her behalf, very discreetly. This book relates to the events of the first book in passing, and develops some characters introduced, but is so well written that it stands alone. Yes, there is some difficulty with the basic premise that a ninety year old woman, who is probably the most photographed person in the world over her lifetime, could quietly gain enough exclusive information to make a difference, but Bennett has created more than one person who will help her. Rozie, a young personal secretary who is far from limited to an office, has the initiative, courage and skills to look into people and places at the Queen’s request, but the process is not always straightforward. I really enjoyed this particular novel, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it. 

The three dogs of the title are of course the royal corgis, and it is when walking these favoured animals that the Queen gets time and space to really think. This book reveals some impressive research into the sort of activities that fill the royal day, with receptions, investitures, meetings with officials and family, posing for portraits and changing clothes to suit. This book is mainly set in Buckingham Palace, which is apparently beset by the need for repairs and has its own set of difficulties. There is an immense number of people who work in the Palace, ranging from those with direct access to the Queen, to those concerned with the preparation of the rooms for special events, to the individuals who maintain the diaries and the timetables. This story begins with a Prologue which describes Sir Simon Holcroft, the Queen’s Private Secretary, making a tragic discovery. Three months earlier the Queen had discovered that a small painting that she particularly favoured has turned up in a Naval building, when it was last seen opposite her bedroom. Even “The Duke of Edinburgh” points out that she has seven thousand paintings in the Royal Collection, so how did she remember one not noted for its artistic merit or financial value. Being a firm believer in looking after the small details, she requests Rozie to investigate, and it is while looking into the details that a far more complex situation emerges. Apparently the driving force among the large staff is gossip, and it seems that some very nasty and personal attacks have been made on more than one person. When it seems that those who work with the Royal Collection may be involved in an unfortunate death, can the Queen really keep her investigations under cover?

Anyone who is interested in the private life of the Royal Family will find much to interest them in this book; it seems to capture the daily activities of the Queen in particular. It is also a mystery story, with clues, trails and red herrings as an unfortunate death seems to raise many questions. It is a confidently written book threaded through with humour and real insights into life inside a Palace. The characters are well written, in the small details as well as the descriptions of their roles within a community. I thoroughly recommend this book for the tension, the mystery, and the portrait of a Queen who feels compelled to discover the truth.