The 25th book that I read for the book challenge was The Twelve Clues Of Christmas (A Royal Spyness Mystery) by Rhys Bowen.
Lady Georgiana Rannoch is stuck at Castle Rannoch in Scotland just before Christmas and dreading it. She is wondering how she’ll survive the holidays with her sister-in-law Fig’s family when she sees an advertisement in a magazine for a young woman to act as a hostess for a house party in Devon for a the holidays. Coincidentally, her mother is staying in Devon for the holidays. Georgie applies for the position and gets the job and sets off for Devon, where her grandfather will also be, working for her mother and Noel Coward in a cottage there.
Georgie arrives at Tiddle-under-Lovey at Gorzley Hall. She meets Lady Hawse-Gorzley who has hired her to act as hostess to her younger guests, to organize games and other activities to entertain them, and the fact that Georgie is royalty certainly helps. But Georgie has arrived to some bad news. A neighbor has apparently shot himself in a tree next to the Hawse-Gorzley’s estate. It seems he was trying to make mischief in a tree and his gun went off and he was killed. The police are just finishing up. The guests are beginning to arrive.
The next day more guests arrive and another death occurs. This time a man from the pub seems to slipped from a bridge and has fallen into the river and drowned. Two deaths in two days. The next day, the son of the family arrives and with him another friend and Georgie’s love interest Darcy O’Mara. She is quite pleased to see Darcy. She goes into the village to visit her mother and grandfather and to see the village. There she learns that another death has occurred, this time an elderly woman in the village who has been killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, by gas being left on in her room. These deaths are becoming suspicious and Georgie is becoming worried. There is talk of the Lovey Curse, the witch who was burned in the 1700s who said people would die around Christmas because she was killed at Christmastime.
Georgie talks to the police Inspector who agrees that these deaths seem too much of a coincidence–three in a small village in three days–but they don’t seem to be related and all seem to be accidents. But Georgie is uneasy. The events at Gorzley Hall go along as plans and everyone is having a good time. Lady Hawse-Gorzley is giving everyone an old-fashioned English Christmas just as she promised. The next day, Lady Hawse-Gorzley finds the telephone isn’t working so Georgie goes to the village to find a working telephone to call the butcher. She finds there has been an accident at the telephone exchange. Wires have been crossed and a telephone operator has been electrocuted and there was a fire. All the phones are out. So Georgie takes a car to the town to see the butcher and order the geese for Christmas dinner. While there she goes to the jewelry shop and buy pixies for her grandfather, her mother, and for Darcy. She think, another death. That makes four in four days. Everyone goes out caroling that night and has too much punch at all the houses. Georgie is quite drunk when she comes home and is accosted by Johnny Protheroe in her bedroom that night.
On Christmas Eve, the jewelry shop is broken into and five expensive gold rings are stolen from a safe in the shop. No one is killed on the fifth day. Most of the guests go to church services on Christmas Eve. A few go to church on Christmas morning. Lady Hawse-Gorzley is worried that the butcher has not shown up with the geese. She does have the turkeys but she really wanted geese, too. He never shows up. Later they hear that his van went off the road and that he was killed. Another death. Georgie goes to visit her grandfather and mother and she shares her concerns with her grandfather who was a policeman. He agrees that the situation is odd, but doesn’t know what to do.
The next day is Boxing Day. They are also discussing the possibility that these deaths could be the work of escaped convicts from a nearby prison who haven’t been caught. But the Inspector feels that they wouldn’t stay in the area and are probably on their way to London. There is another death in the village on Boxing Day.
They organize a hunt for the next day. Georgie is a good rider and she is given a temperamental horse from the estate next door. She becomes separated from the rest of the hunters and finds herself near the bog with the master of the hunt’s horse but the master is nowhere to be found. They believe that he has been thrown and has been lost in the bog. Another death. Now Georgie is absolutely convinced that these deaths are not accidents. That they are related in some way. That they are cleverly planned murders. But who is doing them? And why?
The “how” of the murders is never actually explained, once we know the “who” and the “why” of the murders. I would have liked to know “how.” But it becomes a moot point, because of the way things turn out in the end.
Georgie’s love life takes a turn for the better and then is put on hold again, as always. Darcy is off again for South America and Georgie is off to act as her mother’s secretary in London, perhaps for another adventure.