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Authors: Rhys Bowen

Her Royal Spyness

BOOK: Her Royal Spyness
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Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

More Praise for

Her Royal Spyness

“I’m sure the British royal family will take more than a little interest in the exploits of their long-lost cousin,
Her Royal Spyness
, Lady Georgiana Rannoch!”—Jacqueline Winspear, author of the Maisie Dobbs Novels


“A delightful heroine [and] quirky characters . . . add to the fun.”—
Publishers Weekly



Praise for Rhys Bowen’s Constable Evans and Molly Murphy Mysteries


“It’s always a delight to discover a new book from the pen of Rhys Bowen.”—
The Tampa Tribune


Detroit Free Press


“A series that shows no signs of growing stale.”

The Denver Post


“It’s hard not to be charmed by this young immigrant woman.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


“A sweet and sunny read.”—
San Francisco Sunday

Examiner & Chronicle


“Maybe Evan can wait, but I’m already impatient for his next adventure.”—Margaret Maron, author of
Hard Row


“Pitch-perfect.”—Laura Lippman, author of
What the Dead Know


“Quiet humor . . . a jewel of a story.”—
Publishers Weekly


“Bowen builds tension with every page.”—
Kirkus Reviews


“Impeccable sense of timing . . . outstanding.” —
Library Journal
(starred review)

Berkley Prime Crime Mysteries by Rhys Bowen




Constable Evans Mysteries



Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offiices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England


This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.


This is a work of fiiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fiictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.




A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author


Copyright © 2008 by Janet Quin-Harkin.


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions. For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.



eISBN : 978-1-436-22916-6


Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
The name BERKLEY PRIME CRIME and the BERKLEY PRIME CRIME design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Notes and Acknowledgments

This is a work of fiction. While some real historical personages make cameo appearances in this book, Georgie and her friends and family exist only in the head of the writer. I have tried to ensure that royal personages do nothing out of character and accurately play themselves.


I would like to thank those who provided valuable input and gentle criticism: fellow mystery writers Jane Finnis and Jacqueline Winspear; my husband, John (who knows what’s what about who’s who); my daughters Clare and Jane; and my cheering section, my wonderful agents Meg and Kelly.


Thanks also to Marisa Young for lending her name to an English debutante.

Chapter 1

Castle Rannoch
April 1932


There are two disadvantages to being a minor royal.

First, one is expected to behave as befits a member of the ruling family, without being given the means to do so. One is expected to kiss babies, open fetes, put in an appearance at Balmoral (suitably kilted), and carry trains at weddings. Ordinary means of employment are frowned upon. One is not, for example, allowed to work on the cosmetics counter at Harrods, as I was about to find out.

When I venture to point out the unfairness of this, I am reminded of the second item on my list. Apparently the only acceptable destiny for a young female member of the house of Windsor is to marry into another of the royal houses that still seem to litter Europe, even though there are precious few reigning monarchs these days. It seems that even a very minor Windsor like myself is a desirable commodity for those wishing a tenuous alliance with Britain at this unsettled time. I am constantly being reminded that it is my duty to make a good match with some half-lunatic, buck-toothed, chinless, spineless, and utterly awful European royal, thus cementing ties with a potential enemy. My cousin Alex did this, poor thing. I have learned from her tragic example.

I suppose I should introduce myself before I venture any further. I am Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter of the Duke of Glen Garry and Rannoch—known to my friends as Georgie. My grandmother was the least attractive of Queen Victoria’s daughters, who consequently never managed to snare a Romanov or a Kaiser, for which I am truly grateful and I expect she was too. Instead she was hitched to a dreary Scottish baron who was bribed with a dukedom for taking her off the old queen’s hands. In due time she dutifully produced my father, the second duke, before succumbing to the sort of diseases brought on by inbreeding and too much fresh air. I never knew her. I never met my fearsome Scottish grandfather either, although the servants claim that his ghost haunts Castle Rannoch, playing the bagpipes on the ramparts (which in itself is strange as he couldn’t play the bagpipes in life). By the time I was born at Castle Rannoch, the family seat even less comfortable than Balmoral, my father had become the second duke and was busy working his way through the family fortune.

My father in turn had done his duty and married the daughter of a frightfully correct English earl. She gave birth to my brother, looked around at her utterly bleak Highland surroundings, and promptly died. Having secured an heir, my father then did the unthinkable and married an actress—my mother. Young men like his uncle Bertie, later King Edward VII, were allowed, even encouraged, to have dalliances with actresses, but never to marry them. However, since Mother was Church of England and came from a respectable, if humble, British family at a time when the storm clouds of the Great War were brewing in Europe, the marriage was accepted. Mother was presented to Queen Mary, who declared her remarkably civilized for someone from Essex.

The marriage didn’t last, however. Even those with less zip and zest than my mother could not tolerate Castle Rannoch for long. 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. It’s amazing, really, that she stuck it out for as long as she did. I think the idea of being a duchess appealed to her in principle. It was only when she realized that being married to a duke meant spending half the year in Scotland that she decided to bolt. I was two at the time. Her first bolt was with an Argentinian polo player. Many more bolts have followed, of course. The French racing driver, so tragically killed in Monte Carlo, the American film producer, the dashing explorer, and most recently, I understand, a German industrialist. I see her from time to time, when she flits through London. Each time there is more makeup and more exotic and expensive hats as she tries desperately to cling on to those youthful looks that made men fight over her. We kiss, cheek to cheek, and talk about the weather, clothing, and my marriage prospects. It’s like having tea with a stranger.

Luckily I had a kind nanny, so my upbringing at Castle Rannoch was lonely but not too terrible. Occasionally I was whisked away to stay with my mother, when she was married to someone suitable in a healthy part of the world, but she wasn’t really cut out for motherhood and rarely stayed in one place for long, so that Castle Rannoch became my anchor, known and trusted, even if it was gloomy and lonely. My half brother, Hamish (usually known as Binky), was sent away to the sort of boarding school where cold showers and runs at dawn are the norm, designed to mold future leaders of the empire, so I hardly knew him either. Nor my father, really. After my mother’s much publicized bolt he sort of lost heart and wafted around the watering holes of Europe, losing more and more money at the tables in Nice and Monte Carlo until the infamous stock market crash of ’29. When he learned that he’d lost what remained of his fortune, he went up onto the moors and shot himself with his grouse gun, although how he managed to do it has always been the object of speculation, my father never having been a particularly good shot.

I remember trying to feel a sense of loss when the news was delivered to me in Switzerland. I only had the vaguest image in my brain of what he looked like. I missed the concept of having a father, knowing he was there for protection and advice when really needed. It was alarming to realize that at nineteen, I was essentially on my own.

So Binky became third duke, married a dull young woman of impeccable pedigree, and inherited Castle Rannoch. I, meanwhile, had been shipped off to finishing school in Switzerland, where I was having a spiffing time mixing with the naughty daughters of the rich and famous. We learned passably good French and precious little else except how to give dinner parties, play the piano, and walk with good posture. Extracurricular activities included smoking behind the gardener’s shed and climbing over the wall to meet with ski instructors in the local tavern.

Luckily some wealthier members of the family chipped in for my education and allowed me to stay there until I was presented at court and had my season. For those of you who might not know, every young woman of good family has her season—a series of dances, parties, and other sporting events, during which she comes out into society and is presented at court. It’s a polite way of advertising “Here she is, chaps. Now for God’s sake somebody marry her and take her off our hands.”

BOOK: Her Royal Spyness
8.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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