Review: The Windsor Knot, S J Bennett

  • genre(s): (cosy) crime
  • audience: adult readers
  • read it for: an intricately plotted and satisfying mystery tucked into a delightful and affectionately presented ‘sneak peek’ at the home life of HM

The first book in a highly original and delightfully clever crime series in which Queen Elizabeth II secretly solves crimes while carrying out her royal duties.

On a perfect Spring morning at Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth II will enjoy a cup of tea, carry out all her royal duties . . . and solve a murder.

The morning after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, eighty-nine-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?

Miss Marple meets The Crown in The Windsor Knot, the first book in the ‘Her Majesty The Queen Investigates’ mystery series by SJ Bennett.

Source: I received a review copy of the book via NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion. The Windsor Knot is out now from Zaffre in the UK. If you like audiobooks, check out the audio edition, read by Samantha Bond!

Overall, I found this book to be a delight and am absolutely recommending it. For those concerned about the Queen’s involvement in politics etc and needing to avoid such upsetting topics – this book is set in 2016.

I was fortunate enough to attend the online launch party for this lovely book last night, so as well as reviewing, I’m going to share one or two snippets I picked up with you.

Firstly, I loved The Windsor Knot and will definitely be looking out for the rest of the series. Sophia (the author – publishing for adults as S J Bennett) said that there are currently four books planned for publication, and she is keen to continue after that, so this is a series that could run and run! The novel is written with a lightness of touch that imbues the characters – even though many of them are world-renowned – with a reality and homeliness that makes them easy to relate to and root for. The Queen is particularly sympathetic here, and shines bright as an investigator who is sharp of mind and eyes, but gentle with her words. This is perhaps one of the reasons that she is underestimated by many – a reason given for her being able to carry out her investigations.

I was intrigued to learn that Sophia has had a fascination with the Queen from a young age – since 1977 – spurred in particular by a book about Her Majesty’s clothes. This book revealed a lot about her life, through explaining how details in her clothing would pick up on the colours or emblems of countries she was visiting; how she has to have weighted hems; she should not be too fashionable et cetera. Sophia also is fortunate enough to have learned about the Royals from family anecdotes, as her father has come into contact with them, and with the Queen in particular, through work. I was also fascinated that Sophia herself interviewed for the position of Assistant Private Secretary – Rozie’s job in the book – in the 90s, which gave her various insights that gave her research a head start.

I have always had a fondness for cosy crime and would agree with Sophia’s statement that what the genre offers is a sense of safety. I do also enjoy reading (and watching) ‘gritty’ crime, but that tends to leave you more aware of the dangers in the world, whereas the cosy crime stories are more focused on the disentangling and the wrap-up, treating crime more as an anomaly than a constant. I think that’s why cosy is more of a mood than a set of rules.

A final point I would like to share from the launch is this. Sophia was asked about the feminist slant to the books, which she stated was definitely deliberate. It was stated more than once that the Queen’s ability to investigate is largely due to people’s (I might be tempted to say men’s…) tendency to routinely underestimate her. There are several comic scenes in the book where the comedy derives from men explaining things to her, where she is, in fact, in possession of more of the facts than they are. But of course, she’s both too polite – and too shrewd – to reveal this.

So clearly, I’m advising you to read this if you like a good mystery. It’s out in beautiful hardback now (the endpapers are rather lovely…).


What do you think?