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Death at Windsor Castle
By C.C. Benison

Bantam Mystery
$5.99 ($7.99 Canadian)

Reviewed by Therese Greenwood

Jane Bee, housemaid to Queen Elizabeth II, is a North American invention. Created by a Canadian author, Jane, too, is a Canadian and hails from the country's smallest province -- aptly named, for this book, Prince Edward Island. Jane, however, has lost some of her North American idiom. She says "trainers" instead of "sneakers," and "cooker" instead of "stove," but it's nothing that North American fans of the British murder mystery haven't already figured out.

In fact, despite her colonial origins, Jane and her series belong squarely in the tradition of the "cosy" British mystery. The violence is all off-stage, no explicit sex or gore, the characters all know each other and all have equal opportunity and motive. There is, however, a '90s edge to the tale, including hints of pedophilia -- a subject definitely not within the bounds of the traditional mystery -- bound up with more traditional motives like art forgery and old-fashioned jealousy.

Tradition has dictated that Jane Bee must leave her usual duties at Buckingham Palace for the Royal household's summer visit to Windsor Castle, complete with the Queen's cranky corgis. On the summer schedule is the investiture of the new Knights of the Garter and, the morning of the ceremony, Her Majesty summons Jane to the Throne Room to clean a large blood stain in the carpet. The key clue to the murder is a Royal garter with the time-honored motto "honi soit qui mal y pense" -- "shame on him who thinks this evil" -- which works as well as a motive as it does as a motto.

The rest of the novel is replete with royal detail as Jane and the Queen try to clean up matters, staying one step ahead of the Fleet Street press. Somehow, however, the resolution is a bit too, well, cosy.


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