‘Naughty In Nice – Her Royal Spyness #5’ by Rhys Bowen

‘Naughty In Nice’ sees Georgie on another covert mission for the Queen, this time retrieving a small piece of art that no one wants to admit was lifted by a guest at Buckingham Palace. The mission takes Georgie to winter on the Riveria, where England’s wealthiest escape the English weather and the dreariness of a country going through an economic depression, to party and gamble and do things that would be frowned upon if done back home in England.

While she’s in Nice, Georgie becomes a model for Coco Chanel, is courted by a French Baron, is almost raped by an English industrialist, loses a stunningly expensive necklace belonging to the queen, finally gets to experience her mother’s hospitality, gets arrested for murder and becomes a target for the real killer.

The book is full of colour and action. The plot turns out to be more complicated than it seems. Georgie is centre stage throughout but we see less than usual of her ensemble cast, although they all make an appearance. 

I liked the way Rhys Bowen displayed the extravagance of the wealthy against a back-drop of general poverty. The book opens with Georgie working in a soup kitchen in Victoria station, watching the rich walk by to catch the Boat Train as they head for sunshine and ease. This puts Georgie’s first-class on Le Train Bleu from Paris to Nice into context. The rich come across as superficial, self-absorbed, unpleasant and completely unaware of the enmity that their behave produces in the people who service their lifestyle. 

The attempted rape, which takes place on a yacht, is described in a way that makes it clear that the would-be rapist, who would describe what he’s doing as seduction, not rape, abuses a lot of women and takes his right to do this for granted. Georgie, once she understands the man’s intentions, defends herself. I liked that the man’s behaviour wasn’t normalised and the Georgie didn’t just brush it off. 

This was a sort of ‘Winter Sun Vacation’ episode in the series. It was fun but it also made aware of how much I dislike the people Georgie associates with. Le Train Bleu is gone and the Riviera is no longer the destination of choice but the rich are still with us and their behaviour hasn’t changed.

As usual, my enjoyment of the story was enhanced by Katherine Kellgren’s excellent narration. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

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