This book is adorable in the best possible way. I usually hate it when real people are used as the detective, and in the case of this novel “the detective” is one of the most famous people on the planet, Queen Elizabeth II. But SJ Bennett has real affection and reverence – in the nicest way – for her majesty and the actual detecting is mostly done by the Queen’s Assistant Private Secretary, Rozie Oshodi, a British Nigerian who shares the Queen’s affection for horses and would do anything for the “boss.”
This is one of the most intelligent and funny first novels I’ve read in a long while. Set in immediate post WW II London – any fan of Call the Midwife will be familiar with the setting – it’s a period of time still governed by rationing and coupons, and people who have suffered some war trauma, be it loss, living through the Blitz, or actually fighting in the war.
Our two central characters are Iris Sparks and Gwen Bainbridge. Iris has a secret history of resistance fighting and espionage, none of which she can talk about; Gwen, an almost titled member of the upper classes, has lost her husband and is raising her son at her mother-in-law’s after a stint in a mental asylum. She refuses to talk about it.