‘The Windsor Knot’ – Her Majesty the Queen Investigates #1 by S. J. Bennett

The morning after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, 89-year-old Queen Elizabeth is shocked to discover that one of her guests has been found murdered in his room, with a rope around his neck.

When the police begin to suspect her loyal servants, Her Majesty knows they are looking in the wrong place.

For the queen has been living an extraordinary double life ever since her coronation. Away from the public eye, she has a brilliant knack for solving crimes.

With her household’s happiness on the line, her secret must not get out. Can the queen and her trusted secretary, Rozie, catch the killer without getting caught themselves?

This was a smile with a few surprises along the way.

I picked up ‘Windsor Knot’ because I’d seen reviews where people had enjoyed the quiet humour and it was included in my membership on Audible and it was short enough to listen to on a long car drive.

The premise is as improbable as it is charming: that, since her coronation, Queen Elizabeth has been secretly solving crimes that affect members of the royal household or their associates. She maintains the secret by working with a single member of her support staff and by finding ways to make sure that the relevant authorities are given the information necessary to close a case without anyone being aware of Her Majesty’s involvement.

S. J. Bennett gives a credible, sympathetic, Royalist-insider’s view of the Queen and the operation of her household. She writes with a light touch and good humour that keeps this cosy mystery amusing without making jokes at anyone’s expense (Well, perhaps at the expense of the new head of M15 who is investigating the murder but then he is a slightly pompous, more than a slightly patronising man whose lack of insight is exceeded only by his complete confidence in his own judgement and the Queen still gives him a gong in the end).

The mystery, which involves the murder of a Russian pianist who was part of a select ‘Eat and Sleep’ group at Windsor Castle, is a solid one, with a rich suspect pool and links to fairly contemporary issues regarding the UK’s international strategy relating to the Russians, the Chinese and the Americans.

This is the first book in the series so, although the Queen has been solving mysteries for some time. it’s all new to the reader. S. J. Bennett deals with this by having the Queen induct a new member of her staff to help her with her secret enquiries so we can learn how all of this works as the newbie figures it out.

The thing I enjoyed most about the book was the Queen’s quiet, dry sense of humour. The things that most surprised me were that the diplomatic context of the story was so current and so strategically important and that the book contains one very well-executed up-close-and-personal fight scene.

I found the ending of the book a little clumsy and repetitive. This was mostly because, once the Queen figures out who murdered whom and why, she not only needs to lead MI5 and Scotland Yard to discover what she already knows but she has to sit and listen as they explain it all to her.

‘The Windsor Knot’ was a pleasant distraction. It didn’t leave me with a strong appetite for the next book in the series but it is the kind of read that I’d like to have on hand when I just want to relax with something harmless but well-written.

I recommend the audiobook version of ‘The Windsor Knot’, narrated by Samantha Bond. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

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