A Three Dog Problem by SJ Bennett: A delight for fans of both the royals and whodunits - book review -

Life is proving more than a little tricky for Queen Elizabeth II in October of 2016… the nation is divided by Brexit, the US is gripped by a worrisome presidential election, and now dark forces are at work in Buckingham Palace.

Our revered monarch is going to need the help of her irrepressible tough cookie personal assistant Rozie Oshodi if is she is to solve what turns out to be a dastardly murder.

Welcome back to a hidden (and delightfully unexpected!) corner of the Queen’s life in the second right royal mystery of a clever, funny and charming series from SJ Bennett, best known for her award-winning young adult books.

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Billed as Miss Marple meets The Crown – and with rights already sold across the globe – Bennett’s delightfully cosy and quirky Her Majesty The Queen Investigates series takes readers behind the ancient walls of castles and palaces alongside a super-sleuthing superstar sovereign.

With a supporting cast of real and fictional players – including some wonderful cameo appearances by the late Prince Philip – and a plot that blends actual events with an intriguing mystery, this is an exhilarating romp that brings us the Queen (and her courtiers) as we have never before seen them.

As if the current post-Brexit referendum political turmoil wasn’t enough for the Queen to handle, the discovery of the body of the long-serving, very capable, but almost universally disliked, housekeeper Cynthia Harris at the Buckingham Palace swimming pool has only added to her woes.

Her Majesty is by no means convinced that Cynthia slipped on the tiles by the pool and died in what the police believe is just a tragic accident. Determined to dig further into the woman’s death, the Queen enlists (as always) the services of her trusted, and immensely discreet, assistant private secretary and Nigerian ex-Army officer, Rozie Oshodi.

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It’s Rozie’s job to assist the ‘boss’ who, although the staff and public may not realise it, is a keen amateur sleuth. And this new task turns out be even more difficult than Rozie imagined. She is already at work on the trail of a missing and much treasured painting of the Royal Yacht Britannia which once hung outside the Queen’s bedroom, and her enquiries are leading to some disturbing discoveries.

But when Rozie and other members of the royal staff receive menacing anonymous letter, the monarch knows dark forces are at work and far too close to home… it will take a Queen’s eye to see connections where no one else can.

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Queen Elizabeth II is undoubtedly the shining star of Bennett’s new laugh-out-loud, royal blue mystery which picks up perfectly every nuance and familiar characteristic of our long-serving monarch and paints a dazzling, humorous and totally convincing portrait of the dog-loving, horse-mad, duty-bound monarch, without losing sight of her dignity and integrity.

Best supporting roles are undoubtedly the tireless, trusty Rozie, the eyes, ears and action woman of her canny ‘boss,’ and the wonderfully outspoken and crustily irreverent Prince Philip whose throwaway lines and walk-on parts prove so often to be the poignant scene-stealers.

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With its richly detailed and authentic portrayal of court life and diplomacy, a fast-paced plot littered with red herrings, shadowy intrigue and some unexpected moments of pathos, plus a distinctly British flavour that will delight fans of both the royals and whodunits, A Three Dog Problem is the perfect winter-warmer for the long, dark nights ahead.

(Zaffre, hardback, £12.99)