It is the early spring of 2016 and Queen Elizabeth is at Windsor Castle in advance of her 90th birthday celebrations. But the preparations are interrupted when a guest is found dead in one of the Castle bedrooms. The scene suggests the young Russian pianist strangled himself, but a badly tied knot leads MI5 to suspect foul play was involved. The Queen leaves the investigation to the professionals—until their suspicions point them in the wrong direction.
Unhappy at the mishandling of the case and concerned for her staff’s morale, the monarch decides to discreetly take matters into her own hands. With help from her Assistant Private Secretary, Rozie Oshodi, a British Nigerian and recent officer in the Royal Horse Artillery, the Queen secretly begins making inquiries. As she carries out her royal duties with her usual aplomb, no one in the Royal Household, the government, or the public knows that the resolute Elizabeth will use her keen eye, quick mind, and steady nerve to bring a murderer to justice.
This debut novel from the imaginative and decidedly twisted mind of SJ Bennett is one of the best reads I’ve had this year, and that’s saying something given the quality of reads I’ve had of late. But what Bennett has done is capture the essence of Her Majesty, QEII, and turned her into a veritable royal Miss Marple in this lovely homage to Agatha Christie.
Our much beloved sovereign is on top form in THE WIDSOR KNOT, sleuthing her way quietly through her ninetieth birthday celebrations, at Windsor Castle, during the spring of 2016. For me, Bennett really captures both the best of a Christie novel, with an MC second to none. Updating for a modern sensibilities, complete with multiple murders, a clever, layered mystery, and political intrigue that is spot on—with a ‘hot button’ topic and issue ripped directly from today’s headlines.
Throw in a great supporting cast of characters not least of which, aiding and abetting Her Majesty is Assistant Private Secretary, Rozie Oshodi, who’s the perfect foil to QEII. And you have a smart, elegant, clever murder mystery that delivers on so many levels. With sneak peeks into life as we might imagine it, within the walls of Windsor castle, and the daily life of a long-serving Queen. Not to mention, the involvement of the Met Police and MI5 who are left high and dry when you have the resource to hand that the Queen does.
Razor sharp observations, droll and as dry as the Sahara, our erstwhile sleuth, Her Majesty the Queen of England, is one of the most unusual characters to pop up solving crime in, well, a long time. And some of the throw away scenes between her and Philip are, well, priceless. To quote:
“Last thing you want is to be discovered in a royal palace with your goolies out.”
“No, I mean it. No wonder everyone’s keeping it hush-hush. That, and protecting your fragile nerves.”
The Queen threw him a look. “They forget. I’ve lived through a world war, that Ferguson girl, and you in the navy.”
I can still hear the Queen’s quiet, lilting voice echoing in my head along with that of Rozie, the Queen’s accomplice in crime-solving. Two wonderfully written characters, piecing together a series of nasty murders that all lead back to … well, that I cannot tell you, it would spoil the fun. Just go pick up your own copy and find out for yourself just who did what, to whom and why.
The Windsor Knot has all the hallmark signs of being a long-running, best-selling cosy-mystery series that I, for one, am going to thoroughly enjoy reading.
Long may Lilibet reign!
THE WINDSOR KNOT
William Morrow, 2021
Paperback, 271 pages