Bowen, Rhys. Royal Flush.

NY: Berkeley, 2009.

As Bowen’s fans know by now, Lady Georgiana of Glen Garry and Ranoch, half-sister of the Duke of Ranoch, is trying to live in the family’s London townhouse on beans, tea, and toast. She’s a granddaughter of Victoria and 34th in the line of succession, but she’s still basically penniless.

It’s the summer of 1932 and she’s been getting by (sort of), but the Great Depression isn’t making life easy. Then she manages to embarrass herself in a poorly thought-out advert in the Times, and a gent in the Foreign Office strongly suggests she get herself off home to Scotland while things blow over. She’s expected at Balmoral in a few days anyway (a primitive holiday most potential guests try their best to avoid), and by the way, there’s something His Majesty’s government would like her to do as long as she’s there: Keep an eye out for possible assassins of the royal family. Georgie’s not thrilled but she knows her duty, so off she goes, to find her sister-in-law, the duchess (a trial at the best of times), trying to deal with the expense of a castleful of Americans — Mrs. Simpson and her entourage, who certainly aren’t going to be invited to sojourn at nearby Balmoral. Then, of course, people begin to die. Other people (including Georgie) come close to it. And the Prince of Wales isn’t taking any of it seriously.

You can’t really take this series seriously as murder mysteries, either, and you’re not really supposed to. This is semi-frothy entertainment in period costume, with a good dollop of dry English wit stirred in. But even so, this one is a pretty good puzzler. I had the Bad Guy narrowed down to only a few possibilities — but then one of them got killed, so there you are. Georgie is a highly sympathetic protagonist, of course, especially for a member of the aristocracy, and the regular supporting cast are also well drawn. And one knows there are still a few unsolved mysteries lurking in the background.


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