ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – A Death in Diamonds by S.J. Bennett

A Death in Diamonds by S.J. Bennett is published by Zaffre and available now in hardcover (with lovely endpapers), eBook and audiobook. My thanks to the publishers for the proof and finished review copies.

1957 – Young Queen Elizabeth II is finding her way in a challenging world as the United Kingdom must adjust to having neither an empire nor a set place in post-war Europe.

As she travels the world to try and build bridges, the Queen is advised by the ‘men in moustaches’, as Philip calls them – her father’s old courtiers, who may or may not have her best interests at heart. One of them is trying to sabotage her: that much she is sure of.

And then two bodies turn up, horribly murdered, in Chelsea, and the Queen finds herself unwillingly used as the alibi for somebody very close to her.

Elizabeth knows she can’t face these challenges alone. She needs support from someone clever, discreet and loyal, someone she can trust. Then she meets ex-Bletchley Park code breaker, Joan McGraw, and their investigation into the murders begins in earnest . . .

Looking back at my reviews for the previous three books in the Her Majesty the Queen Investigates series, I can see that on each occasion I said the book I was reviewing was my favourite of them all. I’m about to say exactly the same thing about book four, A Death in Diamonds, which I thought was an absolutely brilliant read.

It’s possible that what I loved most of all is the fact that this book took me back to 1957 and the beginning of The Queen’s (fictional) crime-solving with her Assistant Private Secretary, who in this case is Joan McGraw. I enjoyed the historical elements, the younger Queen and her ‘men with moustaches’, the stuffy courtiers that Prince Philip disliked so much. The Queen enlists Joan’s help to find out who murdered a man and a woman in a mews house in Chelsea, a crime in which the Queen has a vested interest in solving.

The story combines large chunks of fact with smaller chunks of fiction, weaving them together to make for a really charming read that was a true joy to pick up and delve back into. The murder mystery itself is very well-plotted and investigated by DI Fred Darbishire which enables us to see it from a more conventional viewpoint. He has no idea how much his strings are being pulled by the monarch!

It was wonderful to read S.J. Bennett’s meticulously researched version of the young Queen and her family, and to follow her on trips to France and the USA. This series has a Miss Marple feel to it but the royal element makes it not only stand out from the rest but also particularly up my street. I know the author has a rich supply of possible further storylines from the Queen’s long reign, and I hope that it’s not the last we’ve seen of the younger monarch. I’m excited for more in this captivating series – long may it continue.

SJ Bennett was born in Yorkshire and travelled the world as an army child. She had a varied career before her first novel was published when she was 42. Since then, her books have won awards, been optioned for TV, and have been translated into over 20 languages.

She was once asked to interview for the role of Assistant Private Secretary to the Queen and still considers it the job that got away. A curious royal watcher for many years, she lives in London, where she can often be found haunting its palaces, museums, galleries and libraries. She currently writes the ‘Her Majesty the Queen Investigates’ series

You can find her on Instagram @sophiabennett_writer and on Twitter @sophiabennett.


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