Bowen, Rhys. Naughty in Nice.

NY: Berkeley, 2011.

Lady Georgiana Rannoch is thirty-fourth in line for the British throne but the fact that she’s a card-carrying aristocrat doesn’t means she’s wealthy, or even eating regularly — especially since it’s late winter 1933 and nearly everyone, including her, is out of work. (Not that her toffee-nosed relatives approve of her working in the first place, of course.)

She’s been trying, since the beginning of this delightful series, to make her own way in London, but it looks like she’s going to have to fall back to the family castle in Scotland to survive, when her half-brother (the duke) and sister-in-law decide to escape to the Riviera for awhile. Then the Queen (who has come to depend on Georgie’s loyalty and willingness to perform confidential little errands on her behalf) sends her off to Nice to try to retrieve a very valuable snuffbox that was pinched from Buckingham Palace by an upstart baronet auto manufacturer, and she gets to ride the Blue Train after all. On the way, she makes the acquaintance of Coco Chanel, who is throwing a fashion show in Nice and who recruits Georgie as an amateur runway model. And she ends up at a villa owned by her mother, a still-beautiful ex-actress, just up the hill from where the wayward baronet is staying — who is then promptly killed in his own swimming pool.

Bowen writes amusing mysteries. They’re really a superior sort of fluff, but she does it well. Georgie is an observant and sympathetic character and the setting is well-handled and pretty accurate. (And, yes, Chanel really was doing a show on the Côte d’Azur at that time.) The regular supporting cast (including the Prince of Wales and the abrasive Mrs. Simpson) are here, too. The clues are there but you probably won’t figure out whodunit before the big climax. And there’s her continuing but still tentative romance with the rakish Darcy O’Mara to keep things interesting.


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