The Windsor Knot

by S.J. Bennett
William Morrow, March 2021, $27.99

The new mystery series Her Majesty the Queen Investigates is off to a promising start with this charming and original first installment. It’s April 2016 and 89-year-old Queen Elizabeth II is at her favorite residence, Windsor Castle, with the usual full schedule of events in progress. A talented young Russian pianist who performed at the previous evening’s “dine and sleep” has just been found dead in his room, of what seems at first to be accidental strangulation. The official investigation soon reveals it was no accident and MI5 suspects that there may be a Russian spy among the castle’s legion of personnel.

The queen, an astute judge of character who is as loyal to her people as they are to her, is dismayed by the direction the authorities are taking and decides to make a few discreet inquiries herself. To ensure absolute secrecy, she entrusts some rather unorthodox assignments to her new assistant private secretary, Rozie Oshodi, a British Nigerian military veteran who shares the queen’s sharp intellect, impeccable discretion, and love of horses.

SJ Bennett’s portrayal of the monarch’s hectic official activities, her affectionate humor in private life, and her stalwart, kind, and insightful personality is vivid, engaging, and believable. The queen is irritated—and a little amused—by those who don’t see more than “a little old lady in a hat”—but also savvy enough to take advantage of their obtuseness when it suits her purpose. Drawing on her deep understanding of diplomacy, bureaucracy, and human nature, the queen unravels the tangled connections among seemingly unrelated events to ensure that justice will be done, all the while conducting royal duties—hosting the Obamas, attending Privy Council meetings, christening post offices, and overseeing preparations for the official celebrations of her upcoming 90th birthday and the annual Royal Horse Show.

You don’t need to be an anglophile or follower of “the royals” to enjoy The Windsor Knot, but you may find yourself tempted to become one by the time you finish the last chapter.

Jean Gazis
Teri Duerr
March 2021
William Morrow