Her Royal Spyness (2007) is the first is Rhys Bowen‘s new Royal Spyness mystery series, as the complete title, Her Royal Spyness Solves Her First Case, suggests. The year is 1932 and, like many others, the Rannoch family is in monetary distress thanks to the stock market crash of 1929. Unlike most people, the Rannoch’s problems stem from finding money to maintain a scary, drafty castle in the Scottish highlands when the family estate has, for all intents and purposes, run dry.
Younger sister to the new Duke of Antholt and Rannoch, Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie (Georgie to most everyone) knows that she is on the cusp of a great change. What Georgie does not expect is to leave her home in Scotland for the hustle and bustle of England to seek her fortunes, which will hopefully amount to more than the non-existent allowance from her family. Thirty-fourth in line to the English thrown on one side, daughter of a stunningly beautiful and unreliable actress on the other, Georgie is ill-equipped for life alone in a big city. She is even less equipped when it comes to finding a job to continue living in said city–Swiss Finishing Schools do not pride themselves on their resume building courses after all.
With limited options at her disposal, Georgie has no choice but to find a job. As if that isn’t complicated enough she also has to spy on the Queen’s playboy son to see if he is really involved with an American and deal with a beastly Frenchman who claims he owns the Rannoch family estate. When said Frenchman turns up dead in said family’s home, well, things only get worse as Georgie is thrown headfirst into a murder investigation.
Her Royal Spyness is a fun, light read by a critically-acclaimed mystery writer. Fans of Bowen’s Molly Murpy Mysteries (starting with Murphy’s Law) will definitely enjoy this book and realize that the similarities between the series do not stop at their strong-willed heroines. Bowen also once again includes a bad-boy Irish love interest in the form of one Darcy O’Meara–a more likable character than Molly’s Detective Daniel O’Sullivan if not perhaps as original a character. Fans of historical, humorous mysteries will also enjoy this title.
That said, the story does often run thin on mystery. The narrative also verges toward the pretentious though, to be fair, that might be a necessary fault when the narrator is practically royalty. (And, on a completely personal level, I found Georgie’s best-friend Belinda completely insufferable but that might be me.) In the world of mysteries, Georgie is a relatively young narrator at twenty-two years of age. As a result off-the-case chatter often involves youthful topics like suitors and (excessively) bedroom matters (nothing bawdy though of course). If you want a true mystery this might not be your book, if you want a quick and fun mystery Her Royal Spyness is just the ticket.