Bowen, Rhys. Her Royal Spyness.

NY: Berkley, 2007.

This is the first offering in Bowen’s third series of humorous murder mysteries, this time set in the spring of 1932 and featuring the young Lady Georgiana, half-sister of the Duke of Glen Garry and Rannoch (known to all as “Binky”), and granddaughter of “the least attractive of Queen Victoria’s daughters.”

She stands thirty-fourth in the line of succession and while it might be nice being related to the royal family and all, it doesn’t keep her from being stony broke, their father having gambled away the family fortune. Everyone seems only to want to get her married off, preferably to a fish-faced Roumanian princeling, but Georgie’s having none of it, so she heads off to London on her own, intending to put up at Rannoch House on Belgrave Square until she can figure out how to support herself. Of course, she first has to learn how to lay a fire, make coffee, and even how to dress herself without a maid — but she’s a bright girl and a determined one, and she even comes up with an ingenious money-making scheme. As long as she doesn’t get caught actually working, of course. The Queen (not to mention her sister-in-law) would never stand for it. Besides, HM wants Georgie to go and spy on the Prince of Wales and that Simpson woman for her. But then an unpleasant Frenchman is found drowned in the Ranoch bathtub and Georgie gradually becomes convinced that she, too, is in danger. Was it blackmail? Ordinary greed? Can her other granddad, the Cockney ex-copper, help?

Bowen writes with a light and funny touch and creates believable characters (well, “believable” in this context), and her ear for dialogue is quite good. Of course, if one were to construct a “seriousness” scale for murder mysteries, this one would be well down towards the frothy end of the spectrum, but it makes for an entertaining afternoon’s read.

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