Monday, May 6, 2013

Review: The Twelve Clues of Christmas

I started reading Rhys Bowen years ago when it was only a few books in the Evan Evans series, and I enjoyed them, though I never raved about them.  Later, she began the Molly Murphy series, and I've read most of them, but find them a great deal less engaging.  Then a few years Bowen started the Royal Spyness series, and for some reason they really hit the spot for me.  I can come up with a few reasons: light but still gripping tales, a setting I really like (England between the Wars), an extremely human protagonist (and first-person narrator), and just enough love story, without the problems I was having with Molly Murphy's love story.  This book is the 6th in the series.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries, #6)Mystery Monday!

Rhys Bowen, The Twelve Clues of Christmas, a Royal Spyness mystery (311 pages).

Lady Georgiana Rannoch is 35th in line for the British throne, and as far as she (or I) can tell that's pretty much completely a negative.  She has no money (her family still had to pay ruinous death duties when her father killed himself over his financial ruin), no love-life, and, at the beginning of this book, no home save a very uncomfortable one with her brother and his wife (Binky and Fig, if you wondered.  Grand names these folks give each other for daily use; very P. G. Wodehouse). Plus if she gets too far out of line the Queen herself will send for her and give her something to do, probably involving marrying some ancient and unlovable prince.

Since spending Christmas at Castle Rannoch in Scotland could only be made worse by having to share it with even more of Fig's annoying family, when that proves to be in the offing, Georgie answers an advert and heads off to serve as a hostess for a Christmas house party in Tiddleton-Under-Lovey.  It's a great idea, made even greater when she finds that one of the guests is Darcy O'Mara, the closest thing to a lover she has (or wants).  Unfortunately, someone seems to be killing off locals, one a day, the murders cleverly disguised as accidents.

Since the local police are baffled, it's not long before Georgie has taken a hand, and the tension mounts with each new corpse.  Bowen treads a very narrow line here, with the large number of bodies threatening to overwhelm the essentially light nature of the series.  But she handles it well, and we are able to feel tension and a growing threat without forgetting to laugh at Georgie's troubles, especially the ones that come in the form of the world's worst lady's maid, Queenie.

In the end, of course, Georgiana finds her way to the solution, and (at least as importantly) she finally gets some satisfaction in some other areas of her life as well.

The mystery is well developed, with just enough clues that in retrospect I can see the solution (which in fact I saw just a few pages before Georgie did), while a number of convincing red herrings had me off in the wrong direction several times along the way.  Altogether a very satisfying mystery of the Village Cozy variety.

4.5 stars.


  1. Not my favourite genre, but this sounds most enjoyable! Thanks.

  2. I'm a big mystery fan, as long as we didn't much know or care about the corpse, and never see the blood, etc. :)


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