Her Royal Spyness – Rhys Bowen

I truly thought I was going to be a fan of “Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, 34th in line for the throne”. The tone started out fun, and funny: “The moan of the wind through the vast chimneys, coupled with the tartan wallpaper in the loo, had the effect of producing almost instant depression or even insanity”… “dances, parties, and other sporting events”… Unfortunately, I ended up disliking Lady VGCE rather a lot, and not being too fond of Rhys Bowen’s writing, either.

He evidenced in this book an unhappy tendency to the “In case you were napping before the commercial break” sort of recap, which is intensely irritating in television and much, much worse in books.

“Hello, my ducks. How are you holding up, then?”
“All right,” I said. “Apart from nearly being pushed under a train.”
I saw the worried look cross his face. “When was this?”
“On my way from my solicitors’. I was at the front of a crowded platform and the crowd must have surged forward at the approach of a train. I was almost pushed in front of it.”

As I recall, this incident was part of the narrative, not so long before this recapping passage. This is not a unique occurrence in the book. The author must have been proceeding with the expectation of readers with the attention spans and short term memories of goldfish.

In addition to “Yes, I KNOW – I was HERE” syndrome, the book also suffers from a nasty case of other sorts of unnecessary repetitions. Example: “And as far as I knew, Tristram hadn’t been on the boat last Sunday.” “It was just possible that Tristram was part of it too, although I didn’t think he had been on the boat on Sunday.” It’s this sort of thing that makes me want to bang my head on my desk a few times.

Captain Obvious also makes an appearance – never a good thing in something intended to be a mystery. And there is a splash of “is that supposed to be irony?”: “I reminded myself that a Rannoch never runs away from danger” – Except for Binky Rannoch, who very much did.

Follows a sampling of my venting via Kindle notation:

– “I ventured a little rouge to my cheeks, a dash of lipstick to my lips, and put my twenty-first birthday pearls around my neck. I was rather proud of doing the whole thing without help.”
Really? Which part was the hard part, clasping a necklace or applying makeup? And did a servant really do one’s makeup? Was makeup so acceptable in 1932? And what about her hair? If she was proud of putting on jewelry and makeup I would think she’d be over the moon about fixing her own hair.

– “…How could a rope have wound itself so tightly around my ankle that I couldn’t undo the knot…?”
Easy – ever put an iPod with earphones in your pocket? Instant knots.

– “I understand your brother is the Dook we’ve been reading about,” he said …
“Dook”? How else are you supposed to say it? Duke. Dooook. Duck? Merriam Webster: dük. I don’t know.

I think I’ve said elsewhere that, while I generally have a perfectly adequate sense of humor, books others seem to find uproariously funny leave me completely cold. It may well be that this, with its posh ladyship bumbling about pretending to be a maid and ineptly attempting covert surveillance and trying to figure out how to make it on her own, is one of those books. Apart from that one bit in the very beginning about the loo, it didn’t tickle any fancies or funnybones.

In knitting together the review based on notes I took while I was writing, and in doing so I’m a little surprised – okay, very surprised – that I originally gave the book three stars: this feels like two at best. (Pardon me while I make that adjustment.) The main character was annoying; the secondary characters were worse; the writing was more annoying still in places; the plot had elements that did not play fair with the reader, and other elements that were too obvious. Ah well. Given the hundreds of books I’ve already got on my Kindle, it’s just as well to come across series I’m not interested in pursuing.

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4 Responses to Her Royal Spyness – Rhys Bowen

  1. pooks says:

    This is one of those series that I love in audiobook. Katherine Kellgren does such a wonderful job, I love listening. Too bad it doesn’t hold up to silent reading.

  2. Jane Steen says:

    I presume “Dook” came from an American. The English say Dyewk.

  3. Jane Steen says:

    And since WordPress is actually deigning to let me comment (this is why I don’t leave comments on your posts–WP and my iPad have not been living happily together), just to say that I’ve met Rhys Bowen and AT LEAST she’s properly qualified to write stories about posh British women, being a posh British woman herself albeit a long-term US resident. Her dig at “Dook” is odd in that respect, because if she’s writing for an American audience (which is almost certainly her main audience) you’re not going to get that.

    I’ve also dipped into the Royal Spyness series but I can’t get into them. I’m having trouble getting into series as a whole these days, alas. There are so few that are truly intelligent, and/or the authors are being forced to keep publishing a series that’s passed its prime.

  4. stewartry says:

    Stupid WordPress – glad you persisted!

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