The Twelve Clues of Christmas
by Rhys Bowen
Cover Artist: John Mattos
Review by Verna Suit
Berkley Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425252789
Date: 06 November 2012 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Lady Georgiana (Georgie) Rannock is dreading the prospect of spending Christmas in Scotland with her sister-in-law's dreary family. A pleasant alternative presents itself when she answers an ad to serve as hostess at a large house party in Devon. But when she arrives at Gorzley Hall in the charming village of Tiddleton-Under-Lovey, she finds a neighbor shot to death in the orchard. More villagers proceed to die at the rate of one a day. Are they being murdered by the three convicts who recently escaped from nearby Dartmoor Prison? Or are the deaths accidental, prompted by the century-old Lovey Curse that decrees something terrible will happen each yuletide?
This 6th in the Royal Spyness series once again delivers a charming period mystery set among the British upper class and royalty. Georgie herself is 35th in line to the throne. But unmarried and penniless, she is forced to live on the generosity, or lack thereof, of her family. It's 1933 and her family, like many others, has fallen on hard times following the stock market crash.
It turns out that the owners of Gorzley Hall are also in need of a cash infusion. Thus Lady Hawse-Gorzley has gotten the idea to make some money by offering a 'traditional English Christmas experience' for a fee. The guests are a mix of Americans, English gentry, newly-rich tradespeople, and family members invited to round out the party. To Georgie's delight, this includes her true love Darcy O'Mara, who happens to be a cousin of Lady Hawse-Gorzley. However, Georgie is distraught by the continued deaths and doesn't believe they are accidents. She is determined to find their cause and put a stop to them.
Readers will find The Twelve Clues of Christmas a delightful diversion even after the Christmas season is over. The Gorzley Hall Christmas experience puts English holiday traditions in context and explains them for both the paying guests and the reader.
Christmas is a time to be with family and fortunately for Georgie, her actress mother is staying in a nearby cottage where she is working on a play with Noel Coward. Georgie's retired policeman grandfather is also conveniently nearby and serves as a consultant for both Georgie and the overwhelmed local inspector as they try to solve the murders.
All in all, The Twelve Clues of Christmas is a bon bon, a delicious treat. You'll read it with a smile on your face from beginning to end.