First Sentence: "Are you sure this is the place, cabby?"
It's 1922 and Commander Joe Sandilands, back from his tour in India, is now head of the CID and the Special Irish Branch of the Metropolitan Police. Tsar Nicholas, cousin to King George, and his family have been murdered in Russia and the Irish threat is ever present. With the murder of Lord Dedham by a pair of Irish gunman with the assistance of an escaped third gunman, and suspicions of a Russian spy out to kill the Royal Family, Joe commanders the assistance of Lily Wentworth, a young Constable he saved from being knifed in the posterior while arresting a child predator.
For those who have been following this series and reading the books as they are released, Ms. Cleverly has jumped us back in time from Joe's last adventure, set in 1926, to this one. For those for whom this is their introduction to Joe, fear not as it reads very well as a standalone and provides sufficient character definition so as not to feel lost.
The biggest difference is that whereas the previous books focused on Joe alone, this is a collaborative, and professional, effort between Joe and Lily. One of the most significant things about Lily, is seeing how the role of women in England had changed during this time. There actually was the first female CID officer, Lilian Wyles, appointed in 1922/23. That blending of historical facts, and many characters, within a fictional story is only one of the things Ms. Cleverly does extremely well.
Another of Ms. Cleverly's strengths is her voice. She conveys emotion very effectively. Both the dialogue and her narrative convey the social class and role of the character involved. There are flashes of humor, such as an observation natural for someone at Joe's age of 29, and a cleaver way in which we are informed of Lily's appearance and capability through "hearing" Joe's side of a telephone conversation. She creates a strong sense of time and place through the use of period euphemisms..."Phyl...the Slip-Up? How's he doing?" (an illegitimate child) and ..."He's not planning to twang your elastic" (get in your panties), but also illustrating the social structure and manners of the time. There is even an excellent argument on loyalty to England and the purpose of the monarchy and a painfully realistic view about war..."The men of Europe were straining for a war. When the will to war is there, one bullet from a madman's gun outweighs years of diplomacy." and that the actions of great nations can be substantially less noble than the nations themselves. It is the hallmark of a fine writer when they make you stop and think.
However, the dark is well offset with the light. Although listed as "A Joe Sandilands Murder Mystery," the stage is shared by, and sometimes dominated by, Lily. It is refreshing to have a male and female character in strong roles without their being a romantic relationship. Each character definitely holds their own although there are several scenes between them which seem rather unrealistic, but rather how one would like such relationships to be.
They story is very effectively written; you are drawn in further into the story and the darkness of the time with each chapter. There are well executed changes of direction that take you, with some good suspense, down unexpected roads. Unfortunately, there is one major convenience that makes things a bit too pat, but it is of little consequence to the overall and the ending is a bit abrupt.
"THE BLOOD ROYAL" is, in all, another very good read from Ms. Cleverly.
THE BLOOD ROYAL (Hist Mys/Pol Proc-Joe Sandilands/Lily Wendworth-England-1922/Golden Age) - Good
Cleverly, Barbara - 9th published in series; 5th chronologically in series
New York; Soho Constable, ©2011