A Royal Pain

A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen. After the galloping action of The Black Hand and the steady canter of Folly du Jour, the more sedate pace of Bowen’s second Lady Georgiana Rannoch mystery set in 1930s London provides a pleasant respite. These tales are definitely character-heavy rather than plot-driven, although there is the occasional dead body and sometimes our heroine does manage to find herself in peril.

Georgiana is more a fun character than an accomplished investigator. She’s barely into her twenties, the younger sister of a relatively impoverished Scottish Lord and by virtue of being the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, she’s currently thirty-fourth in line for the throne. She resides in the family’s townhouse rather than suffering the snide remarks of her brother and his wife at the clan’s castle, but with no income of her own and no desire to marry the Romanian prince being suggested as her match, she has established a one-person house cleaning business, which frequently results in her trying to avoid being recognized by other nobles. Her mother, a former actress with several wealthy ex-husbands and lovers, makes an occasional appearance, but it’s her grandfather, an ex-policeman, that is the most prominent stable force in her life. Her best friend Belinda is constantly dragging her to posh parties and pushing her to dispose of her virginity with some suitably dashing young peer. However, Georgie seems set on the rather mysterious Darcy O’Mara, an Irishman who seems to hover on the periphery of both her social circle and her adventures. The final recurring character is Queen Mary, wife of King George V, and Georgie is frequently called to the palace to attend on the royal couple.

On this occasion, she is asked to chaperone the young Princess Hannelore of Bavaria, whom the Queen is hoping will distract Prince Edward from his American lover, Mrs. Simpson. The princess, recently removed from her education at a convent, arrives with a dour, non-English-speaking maid, a demanding, elderly Baroness companion and a love of shopping, American gangster movies, parties and the young men who attend them. It also seems that the black cloud of violence that is Nazi Germany at the time has also followed the princess to England as wherever Georgiana entertains the young lady, dead bodies seem to appear. Our heroine must figure out what’s going on before an international incident occurs.

This is Bowen’s third series following the Molly Murphy tales, set in 1900s New York, and the Constable Evans Mysteries, set in contemporary Wales. Neither of those locales appeal to me, and 1930s London is really on the edge of my HM interests, but Bowen’s characters and writing are certainly worthwhile. Readers interested in other “between the wars” mysteries with a female lead should consider Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple stories and Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series, both set in the 1920s. If I had to choose one only, then I’d give the gold medal to Dunn as the mysteries seem a bit stronger.

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