Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review: Rhys Bowen's The Twelve Clues of Christmas

I'm feeling the Christmas spirit a bit early this year, after finishing the latest Royal Spyness mystery novel by award-winning writer Rhys Bowen.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas is the of Bowen's mysteries I've read. It's a light-hearted, Christmas-themed girlie mystery that takes place in 1930s Devon, and is full of strange characters and mysterious murders.

This Christmas caper contains over a dozen murder attempts (some successful, some not), which must be a new personal record! Fear not, those faint of heart. Bowen strikes the right mix of intrigue and innocence in this this, her sixth Royal Spyness installment.

The lovely  and impoverished Lady Georgiana Rannoch, sick of her bossy sister-in-law, leaps at the chance to escape dreary old Scotland for the holidays. She responds to an advertisement in The Lady and is soon instated as the fashionable young hostess at Lady Hawse-Gorzley's  house party -- for better, or for worse.

A string of apparently accidental deaths plagues the quiet town of Tiddleton-under-Lovey. The clever Lady Georgie cannot help but try to solve the mystery, with help from a comical cast of characters.

Escaped convicts, handsome young lords, a flighty mother and a manor full of strange and suspicious guests made for a quick and easy read with more than enough intrigue to keep the reader guessing. Each character had their own little (or large) secret to protect. Bowen threw in a wild woman, inept inspectors, a village idiot and a classic English hunt, for good measure. 

A cheery old-fashioned English Christmas served as a charming backdrop in this novel, and helped to keep things light and humorous amidst multiple gruesome murders. Dangers abound in this town cloaked in mist and surrounded by bogs. Oh, and one must not forget the Lovey Curse -- a centuries-old tale of horror that sends townsfolk into a tizzy!

Georgie the girl sleuth (and great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria) really irked me, at first. She seemed spoiled and whiny, and a bit too dramatic. It was not until the rest of other peculiar house guests arrived that I settled into this book. Georgiana grew on me as I continued to read, and her shenanigans and difficulties made for an entertaining read.

Bowen's latest mystery provides the reader with a vast collection of personalities, which kept me guessing until the last pages of the novel. I was happily befuddled until the end of the book, which was a nice surprise.

Lucky for me, this book features a bonus at the end:
 Bowen leaves her reader with a collection of recipes from merry ol' England, and directions for some of the classic holiday games Georgie and the house guests play.

Now, I'm eager to make my own mince pies and sausage rolls... and to convince friends to play a rousing game of sardines!

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen
Berkley Prime Crime
On Sale November 6, 2012

1 comment:

Rhys Bowen said...

Thank you for the thoughtful review, Audrey.