Grooming an Australian heir to a dukedom turns into a murder investigation for a very minor member of the royal family.
Although Lady Georgiana Rannoch is 35th in line for the throne, she’s constantly struggling to survive. After her flighty actress mother leaves her in the lurch to spend some time with her latest lover, Georgie’s note to the queen produces a job she seems well-suited for. The queen’s friend Edwina, the Dowager Duchess of Eynsford, has discovered that Jack, the only heir to the dukedom, was brought up on an Australian cattle station. She wants Georgie to come to Eynsford and help smooth off his rough edges. The estate is magnificent, the food is extravagant, but the present duke, Cedric, a nasty piece of work who’s more interested in young men than in siring an heir, refuses to help any of his family members. In addition to her two odd sisters, Edwina is also housing her daughter Irene and her children—Sissy, Nick and Katherine—whose father was a Russian count. Cedric not only refuses to pay for the children’s education and an operation that might restore Sissy’s ability to walk after a riding accident, but is also tearing down estate cottages to build a theater and threatening to adopt his valet as his heir. Jack, who arrives escorted by Darcy O’Mara, the man Georgie would like to marry if they can ever raise the money, considers the whole class system nonsense and would rather be back in Australia. When Georgie finds Cedric with Jack’s knife in his back, she’s certain that he’s innocent of the crime. But getting the police to agree promises to be a difficult task.
Bowen’s seventh Royal Spyness mystery (The Twelve Clues of Christmas, 2012, etc.) is loaded with country-house charm and capped by an unexpected denouement.