Death at Buckingham Palace

Death at Buckingham Palace (Her Majesty Investigates #1)Death at Buckingham Palace by C.C. Benison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just love books that feature the current Queen of England as a character. Although the idea of Her Majesty collaborating with a housemaid may seem improbably silly, it is all great fun. Jane is a plucky young Canadian taking a year off from school and staying with her great-aunt Grace in England. Short of cash, and not wanting to return home to Prince Edward Island, she gets a job in Buckingham Palace. The time period is a few years after the Queen’s “annus horribilis” but before the death of Lady Diana. Lots of humor (footmen streaking naked through the palace), upstairs and downstairs intrigue, a film crew doing a documentary on life at the palace, and plenty of red herrings for Jane to sort through. I had fun searching for images of the various palace rooms on the internet to enhance my reading experience. These are books that I would reread, and I will definitely look for the others in the series. [Note: a much older Jane Bee, now married to a British aristocrat, also appears in the author’s Father Christmas mystery series (Twelve Drummers Drumming, etc.)]

Book Description: (from book jacket) Jane Bee came to Europe for adventure, only to end up with the job of a lifetime — housemaid at Buckingham Palace. Now her greatest challenge is removing gum from State Room carpets — until she comes across a nasty accident right outside the Royal Apartments. The Queen Herself has — literally — stumbled across the dead body of Jane’s good friend, footman and aspiring actor Robin Tukes, in what appears to be a suicide. But why would handsome, impetuous Robin, having just toasted his engagement to a gorgeous housemaid, not to mention his impending fatherhood, want to die? Buck House buzzes, but only Jane — and the Royal Personage known belowstairs as “Mother” — suspects foul play. At Her Majesty’s behest, Jane launches a discreet inquiry that takes her from Servants’ Hall to the highest echelons of the Palace. Yet the more Jane uncovers, the more clear it becomes that this latest royal scandal is a real killer.

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Mrs Queen Takes the Train

Mrs. Queen Takes the TrainMrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a little slow to start, but once I got into it I very much enjoyed the characters. It’s about the Queen, but it’s also about the people around her. A more thoughtful book than Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, I could actually imagine the Queen doing these things, even yoga. Along the way, the author manages to comment on Britain’s class structure, the generation gap, homosexuality, animal abuse, sexual abuse, post-war trauma, physical disabilities, and more. It is humorous without making fun of the monarchy, and maybe even a little poignant as the Queen wrestles with her own identity and wonders if she is just a “useless” figurehead.

Book description: After decades of service and years of watching her family’s troubles splashed across the tabloids, Britain’s Queen is beginning to feel her age. An unexpected opportunity offers her relief: an impromptu visit to a place that holds happy memories—the former royal yacht, Britannia, now moored near Edinburgh. Hidden beneath a skull-emblazoned hoodie, the limber Elizabeth (thank goodness for yoga) walks out of Buckingham Palace and heads for King’s Cross to catch a train to Scotland. But a colorful cast of royal attendants has discovered her missing. In uneasy alliance a lady-in-waiting, a butler, an equerry, a girl from the stables, a dresser, and a clerk from the shop that supplies Her Majesty’s cheese set out to bring her back before her absence becomes a national scandal.

Comic and poignant, fast-paced and clever, Mrs Queen Takes the Train tweaks the pomp of the monarchy, going beneath its rigid formality to reveal the human heart of the woman at its center.