Charming and engaging

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A Three Dog Problem proved to be the perfect contrast to the run of rather serious books I’ve read lately. It’s a delightful, charming mystery in which Her Majesty proves herself to be just as astute and no-nonsense as we always imagined. As one of her staff observes, ‘She was a hell of a lot sharper than she looked. Mistakes were picked up on. Dry comments were made. Eyes were rolled.’

Ex-soldier Rozie, the Queen’s Assistant Private Secretary, is a great character and a force to be reckoned with. As she reminds herself, when the enquiries she has set in train take an unexpectedly risky turn, ‘her regimental specialism had been “find, strike, destroy, suppress”‘.

I loved the humorous elements in the book such as Prince Philip’s petname for his wife being Cabbage, the idea of the Queen googling herself on her iPad to find out where she was on a particular date, and that she spent some of her time at Balmoral binge-watching Murder She Wrote.

I also enjoyed the ‘behind the scenes’ look at life in a royal palace, an increasingly dilapidated one as it turns out in the case of Buckingham Palace. And, as Rozie observes, at night its character changes. ‘The majority of staff went home, the flood of tradesmen, craftsmen and daily visitors slowed to a trickle, and the place was reclaimed by those who lived there or habitually worked late. The buildings stopped trying to impress and their occupants got on with the task of working as efficiently as they could in a rabbit warren of corridors that ceased to make sense two hundred years ago.’

External events such as the fallout from the Brexit referendum and the US Presidential election provide a subtle backdrop to the main storyline. The Queen muses about women who have achieved things or may do so in the future, such as Hilary Clinton, whilst underplaying her own role in world affairs. And there is a moving scene in which the Queen attends the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph; it’s especially poignant as ill-health meant she was unable to attend the ceremony for only the seventh time in her long reign this year.

And, of course, at the heart of the book is an ingenious mystery involving amongst other things an unexplained death, poison pen letters, Renaissance art, and some murky goings-on in the bowels of Buckingham Palace. Definitely a three dog problem.

I know many readers have fallen in love with this series, which commenced with The Windsor Knot in 2020, and I can now understand why. The good news is the author promises there’s another book on the way next year.