The Twelve Clues of Christmas
Publisher: Penguin Group
Line: Berkley Hardcover
Release Date: Nov 6, 2012
Retail Price: 24.95
She may be thirty-fifth in line for the throne, but Lady Georgiana Rannoch cannot wait to ring in the new year—before a Christmas killer wrings another neck…
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—well, actually, my true love, Darcy O’Mara, is spending a feliz navidad tramping around South America. Meanwhile, Mummy is holed up in a tiny village called Tiddleton-under-Lovey with that droll Noel Coward! And I’m snowed in at Castle Rannoch with my bumbling brother, Binky, and sourpuss sister-in- law, Fig.
So it’s a miracle when I contrive to land a position as hostess to a posh holiday party in Tiddleton. The village is like something out of A Christmas Carol! But no sooner have I arrived than a neighborhood nuisance, a fellow named Freddie falls out of a tree, dead…. Dickensian, indeed.
Freddie’s merely a stocking stuffer. On my second day in town, another so-called accident turns up another mincemeat pie—and yet another on my third. The village is buzzing that a recent prison break could have something to do with it… that, or a long-standing witch’s curse. I’m not so sure. But after Darcy shows up beneath the mistletoe, anything could be possible in this wicked wonderland.
Series: A Royal Spyness Mystery
For fans of: J.J. Murphy, Agatha Christie, Kate Kingsbury
It’s December of 1933 and Lady Georgiana Rannoch appears doomed to suffer a perfectly dreadful Christmas. All winter long, she’s been stuck on the Scottish moors in drafty old Castle Rannoch with no one but her brother Binky and his odious wife Fig to keep her company. And now, to make matters worse, it appears Fig’s miserable family will be descending upon Castle Rannoch for the holidays. Georgie has no money of her own so she can't afford to flee to London, and her actress mother plans to hole up with Noel Coward in Tiddleton-under-Lovey while he writes his next play, so for the time being, at least, she’s stuck.
Then one day Georgie answers an ad that seems too good to be true:
Wanted: young woman of impeccable background to assist hostess with the social duties of large Christmas house party. Applications to Lady Hawse-Gorzley, Gorzley Hall, Tiddleton-under-Lovey, Devonshire.
She's hired immediately, and is beyond thrilled at the prospect of spending a proper English Christmas near her mother (and away from Fig!). When she reports for duty, however, she discovers that life in the tiny picturesque village is not as perfect as it appears. The residents of Tiddleton-under-Lovey are dropping like flies – a seemingly accidental death per day since Georgie’s arrival. At first it seems like bad luck, but the body count eventually grows high enough that Georgie starts to suspect there’s a killer on the loose. Can she convince the police that the deaths aren’t coincidence but a crime wave in progress, or is she fated to have a fatal “accident” of her own?
The Twelve Clues of Christmas is the sixth installment in Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness Mystery series. It’s P.G. Wodehouse meets Agatha Christie, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. The pacing is perfect. The prose is graceful, intelligent, and charming as hell. The setup is neat, the plot is tight, and the mystery is so ridiculously clever you’ll be tempted to recount the details to everyone you know.
This book has an incredibly strong sense of time and place. The elegant clothing, rich food, and elaborate holiday décor are all described in sumptuous detail, and not only help paint a brilliant picture of life in 1930s Britain, but do a great job of imbuing the reader with Christmas spirit as well. And the inclusion of a highly entertaining cameo by flamboyant playwright, composer, director, and performer Noel Coward helps to complete the illusion, adding color and context to an already richly textured tale.
Bowen’s characters are so engaging you’ll be sad to part company with them when the story is through. Lady Georgiana Rannoch is a wonderfully winsome and entertaining heroine – tough and smart, yet sweet and caring, her every thought, word, and action ring 100% true. Readers who like a little romance with their murder will find plenty to swoon over in Georgie’s love interest, the dashing Mr. Darcy O’Mara. And the developing relationship between the two makes for such compelling reading, I’d likely beg, borrow, and steal just to get my fix.
In short, The Twelve Clues of Christmas is a compulsively readable tale that not only entertains and delights, but surprises, as well. Buy it for yourself, and then buy copies for every mystery-lover on your Christmas list.
Reviewed by Kat