The Windsor Knot by S J Bennett: Richly detailed and authentic portrayal of court life and diplomacy - book review -
Meet our revered monarch as you have never before seen her in the first right royal mystery in a delightfully clever, funny and utterly charming new series from SJ Bennett, best known for her award-winning young adult books.
Billed as Miss Marple meets The Crown – and with rights already sold across the globe – The Windsor Knot is the first of Bennett’s Her Majesty The Queen Investigates, a cosy and original five-book series which takes readers behind the ancient walls of castles and palaces alongside a super-sleuthing superstar sovereign.
With a supporting cast of real and fictional players – including irrepressible tough cookie Rozie Oshodi, the Queen’s Nigerian ex-Army partner in crime-hunting – and a plot that blends actual events with an intriguing mystery, this is a hilarious romp from start to finish.
The morning after a soirée at Windsor Castle in April of 2016, eighty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth is shocked to discover that one of her guests has been found naked and dead in a wardrobe, with a dressing gown cord knotted around his neck.
Rather awkwardly, the dead man was a Russian, 24-year-old musician Maksim Brodsky who had given a piano recital the night before for the assembled guests… and police and MI5 suspect that he might have died whilst playing a ‘sex game.’
There is a delegation of rich Russians staying at the castle, as Prince Charles is trying to curry favour for one of his ‘pet projects’ and it’s all very unsettling for the Queen who regards Windsor as ‘home’ and the seat of her happiest days of childhood.
When the police establish that Brodsky’s death was in fact murder and begin to suspect that one of the loyal, royal servants was the ‘insider’ for a Russian plot, Her Majesty is so unnerved that she sneaks ‘a second gin’ but knows instinctively that they are looking in the wrong place.
And what the police don’t know is that the Queen has been living an extraordinary double life ever since her coronation. Away from the public eye, she has a brilliant knack for secretly solving crimes, made easier, Philip reckons, because all the public see is ‘a little old lady in a hat.’
With her household’s happiness on the line, the Queen must solve this murder fast and she won’t do it without the help of her assistant private secretary and decorated war veteran Rozie Oshodi who, like the rest of the staff, is terrified of her boss… but adores her more.
Together, can they catch the killer without getting caught themselves?
Queen Elizabeth II is undoubtedly the shining star of Bennett’s laugh-out-loud, royal blue mystery which picks up perfectly every nuance and familiar characteristic of our long-serving monarch and paints a dazzling, humorous and totally convincing portrait of the dog-loving, horse-mad monarch, without losing sight of her dignity and her integrity.
Best supporting roles are undoubtedly the tireless, trusty Rozie, the eyes, ears and action woman of her canny ‘boss,’ and the wonderfully outspoken and crustily irreverent Prince Philip whose throwaway lines and walk-on parts prove so often to be the scene-stealers.
With its richly detailed and authentic portrayal of court life and diplomacy, a fast-paced plot littered with red herrings and The Windsor Knot that will delight both home-grown ‘uns and whodunit fans, The Windsor Knot is guaranteed to hold readers in its thrall.
(Zaffre, paperback, £8.99)