Being 35th in line for the British throne is no sinecure.
Lady Georgiana Rannoch, distant heir to the Empire, has resigned herself to a dull Christmas in the family’s cold and cheerless Scottish castle with her henpecked brother, his awful wife and her even more repugnant family when an opportunity arises to act as a paid hostess at a house party. Arriving in the picture-perfect village of Tiddleton-under-Lovey, where her actress mother and Noel Coward are spending a working Christmas, she’s warmly greeted by the Hawse-Gorzley family, who are providing an old-fashioned Christmas to a wide assortment of paying guests. Georgiana is thrilled to discover that the man she loves, Darcy O’Mara, is the nephew of Mrs. Hawse-Gorzley and is spending Christmas with the family. True, a neighbor seems to have shot himself accidentally while sitting in a pear tree, but it is only when more deaths follow on a daily basis that Georgiana, who is no stranger to sleuthing, takes an interest. The guests are spooked, even though only locals seem to be targeted. The investigating officer calls on Georgiana’s grandfather, a retired London policeman who’s acting as a butler for his actress daughter, for help with the deaths, which the officer still can’t believe are murders, perhaps because he’s preoccupied with the convicts who’ve escaped from Dartmoor Prison. It takes a while for the penny to drop, but Georgiana finally sees a pattern to the deaths, though the clever killer will not be easy to catch.
The sixth in Bowen’s delightful Royal Spyness mysteries set in the 1930s (Naughty in Nice, 2011, etc.) gives readers a blueprint for an old-fashioned English Christmas, complete with traditional recipes, games, drinks and homicides.