The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett

Queen Elizabeth wakes at Windsor Castle to find that there’s been a murder. A Russian entertainer who was amusing her guests the night before has been found dead, under unsavory circumstances. While the people around her think it was an assassination by someone from his own country, the plucky Queen sets out to solve the case, all the while letting the people in charge thinking that they are doing all the work.

This new book is the first in what will be a series, and comes from the author of ten other books which were, I think, all YA. It falls into the cozy mystery genre, in my opinion, but it’s a lot less silly and fluffy than a lot of it’s compatriots. (Not disparaging cozy mysteries at all, I quite like them) And it also has a pleasantly diverse representation of characters.

I was drawn to this book because I thought it was a fun twist on the genre. And I wasn’t disappointed at all. The idea is that Queen Elizabeth, a woman who is notoriously sharp and intelligent, but also subtle and kind, has been quietly solving crimes throughout her life. She does so by enlisting a few people to make discrete enquiries on her behalf, and allowing what she finds out to fall into the hands of the people on the case. I thought that was a nice choice. If the Queen was going to solve crimes in her spare time, this feels like the way she would go about it.

The Queen is really well drawn. The book talks about her life, her schedule, the people around her, and her own personality in a way that shows that the author really did their research. I wasn’t expecting that, but I think it’s really interesting. It’s all very true to life. I love that the author didn’t make the monarch a cartoonish figure, she’s very human. I have to wonder what permissions Bennett had to get from the Royal Family to write about them and their lives and feelings. I can imagine them having a giggle over this series, in a loving way. The book certainly has a sense of humour and I feel like it’s not taking itself overly seriously, even while the crime plot is quite serious.

The murder plot in the book is quite well done. You might pick this up for the novelty factor, but you’ll keep turning pages for the details of the crime as they come out. This book isn’t as dark as, say, British procedural series like the popular Vera Stanhope or Rhona MacLeod series of books, but it’s well plotted and should please those who like detective stories.

In this book, because the lead is The Queen and the murder takes place in a royal residence, the book has a theme of international drama and espionage type characters. Even so, I think it functions like a traditional mystery, really. It makes sense as a choice because these are the kinds of people who are to be found around Queen Elizabeth, but I do wonder if this will always be the case in future books. There’s definitely scope for a more domestic murder, which might be interesting, and because we know the monarch has been solving crimes for a long time, I’d love if they set books in different time periods too. There’s a lot of scope here for some great plots and settings, and I have to say, I’m really intrigued and looking forward to reading more of these, especially if they’re as well written and researched as this one.

Read It If: this one should please classic mystery fans, and perhaps those who love all things Royal or anglophiles. It’s a really pleasing first book in what promises to be an interesting series.

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