MALICE AT THE PALACE BY RHYS BOWEN
August 4, 2015
Berkley Prime Crime (hardcover)
London, 1934. Lady Georgiana Rannoch is delighted to be tasked with playing hostess to Prince George’s bride-to-be, Princess Marina of Greece—particularly since the gig comes with free room and board. But when one of George’s former flings—a notorious party girl by the name of Bobo Carrington—is found dead outside Kensington Palace, Georgiana starts to wonder just what she signed on for. Did somebody leave Bobo for the Royal Family to find? Is a member of the Royal Family to blame? Lady Rannoch is determined to catch the culprit—and hopefully prevent scandal from besmirching the Crown in the process.
MALICE AT THE PALACE is Rhys Bowen’s ninth Royal Spyness Mystery. Bowen’s latest is a light, fun, stylish whodunit that reads like a collaboration between Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse. This book is more mild-mannered than the previous installments in this series—the pace is more deliberate, there’s no real action to speak of, and it doesn’t feature as many grand set pieces, celebrity cameos, or farcical situations. But while the first two-thirds drag a bit (it’s basically just Georgiana trotting around London asking questions), the back third is rocket-fueled, and the ending both delights and gratifies.
Bowen’s characters are skillfully drawn. Georgiana remains one of my favorite traditional mystery heroines; the perfect blend of proper and impertinent, her sense of duty to the Crown remains at war with her desire to marry for love. Readers are treated to a different side of Georgiana’s best friend Belinda; kudos to Bowen for giving her some depth and pathos. Georgiana’s odious sister-in-law Fig and the cantankerous Countess Irmtraut provide marvelous comic relief. And the romantic subplot that is Georgiana’s relationship with handsome and mysterious Darcy is, as always, my favorite part of the book. MALICE AT THE PALACE ends on a bit of a cliffhanger for the couple, and I can’t wait to see where Bowen’s next Royal Spyness Mystery finds them.
Katrina Niidas Holm