Her Royal Spyness is the first in Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness Mysteries series of novels. A light, fun romp through the underbelly of the upperclass of 1930s Britain.
1—The Build Up
Most of the first half of the book is build up, but I don’t mind—and in fact prefer. As Georgie—the heroine—isn’t a detective or any sort of investigator (yet), I’m glad the author takes the time to set things up. And there’s a lot to set up. The world—both in the sense of the time and place, and in the sense of Georgie’s social world as minor English royalty. All the pieces must be set on the board, so to speak—it wouldn’t be a mystery without plenty of suspects. And of course, the all important stakes, which gradually build until Georgie’s family home and reputation, and personal freedom, are at risk.
I love loosing myself in another world, and Her Royal Spyness takes me to a place I haven’t often been, Great Britain during the Great Depression. But more than that, I’m taken to Georgie’s world. I get to see and understand it through her eyes. The book doesn’t ignore the hardships of its setting, which inform many of the book’s key events, while keeping a light-spirited tone that I appreciate. I’ve mentioned before that I prefer cozy mysteries to harder boiled, nor is Her Royal Spyness forensically driven. It’s all about relationships—though the romantic stuff is kept well in hand and prevented from dominating, which I also appreciate.
I also appreciate that Georgie feels real. She doesn’t become a swash-buckler overnight, nor a Sherlockian genius. Nor is she stupid, and though helpless in many ways as a result of how she was brought up—though I can’t say I know how to start a fire from scratch either—Georgie is willing to learn and take risk. She’s just a young woman getting through her life as best she can, even if that means working retail, while determined to take some control of it.
2—The Murder Part
One of the tricks that can be used to keep a murder story enjoyable is to have a despicable murder victim, which our dead man certainly is. I’m a firm believer that tropes are tools, and so long as they’re well employed I don’t mind seeing them again. (Though for the love of all that is unholy, put your own twist on it—carbon copies get boring.) Where was I? Oh yes, Gaston de Mauxville’s timely untimely demise. Timely because the bastard was about to steal Georgie’s home, untimely because she can’t admit to her alibi.
I mentioned that I like Georgie. I like her response to finding a corpse in her bathtub too. No screaming—save her brother’s name, who was supposed to be home and whom she can now not find—or fainting. Just getting on with the important things—like looting the body. And then figuring out what to do. I like practical heroines.
I feel I should also mention that I understand why Georgie takes so long sussing out the killer. Most of the suspects are people she knows, her friends and family. It’s difficult for her to imagine any of them not only killing someone—though most anyone would want to kill Gaston—but framing her for it. And then repeatedly trying to kill her.
Told from Georgie’s first person point of view, the book is written in a breezy, chatty style that gets across lots of information without breaking the narrative flow. Her Royal Spyness was an easy, fast read but I enjoyed every minute of it. Georgie’s insights and commentary on customs, colloquialisms, and new experiences are entertaining. Particularly her thoughts on the people around her. In addition, Ms Bowen makes good use of the m-dash, so I’m happy.
I’m glad I picked this book up and look forward to hearing what my mom and sister—the other people I bought the book for—think of it, and I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the series.