A knighthood does nothing to moderate Simon Bognor’s preference for literate japery over honest sleuthing.
As head of the Special Investigation Division for the Board of Trade, Sir Simon (Death in the Opening Chapter, 2011, etc.) can pretty much manage his own portfolio. The latest case he fancies is gangster Jimmy Trubshawe’s death by mushroom. Since escaping from Scrubs five years ago, Jimmy’s mostly been lying low in sunny Spain, and he ended his days as a conversationalist at the English Experience, a total-immersion school-cum-resort for Spanish business types. When the same Prime Minster who elevated Simon to a knighthood makes it clear that he wants Simon to stay far away from the case, it’s like waving a red flag in front of a not very smart bull. So nothing daunted, Simon, with his wife Lady Monica and his dogsbody Harvey Contractor, heads off to the English Experience, whose current residents and staff seem to revel in their connections to the late Jimmy. All three of the native English speakers—Tracey, George and Camilla—have roots in Essex, Jimmy’s stomping ground. Camilla, who tells Simon that she and her SIS mates had a hand in Princess Diana’s death, blandly assures Simon that she’s equally involved in Jimmy’s death. George may be Jimmy’s brother, and Lola, a superstar Franciscan nun, may have been his mistress. Fans of retro British puzzlers will doubtless wait eagerly for the climactic revelations.
Readers will be disappointed by the non-solution, which Simon has the nerve to blame on 10 Downing Street instead of the author, only if they’ve made the mistake of taking the mystery any more seriously than the characters’ endless chatter about prawns, poison and themselves.