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Available 4.15.24


The Proof of the Pudding

The Proof of the Pudding, November 2023
Royal Spyness, #17
by Rhys Bowen

Berkley
Featuring: Georgie
304 pages
ISBN: 0593437888
EAN: 9780593437889
Kindle: B0BV5XFGFN
Hardcover / e-Book / audiobook
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""Come into the garden, Maud" - but it's a poison garden"

Fresh Fiction Review

The Proof of the Pudding
Rhys Bowen

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted February 17, 2024

Mystery Historical

Lady Georgiana Rannoch is expecting a baby in the seventeenth delightful Her Royal Spyness mystery by Rhys Bowen. The title is a play on an English term for this happy state, ‘in the pudding club,’ while also referring to a toxic dessert course served at a banquet. THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING is indeed in the eating, or the reading in my case.

 

While Georgie and her husband Darcy O'Mara relax in the serene countryside at Eynsleigh ahead of the baby’s arrival, they find the world comes to them. It’s the summer of 1936, and Georgie’s mother makes a brief appearance and then attends the German Olympic Games. A new Parisian chef, Pierre, takes over the kitchen of the country house, and world explorer Sir Hubert, who owns Eynsleigh, arrives home. A neighbour, sensational crime writer Sir Mortimer Mordred, invites the good folks to visit his home and poison garden nearby; he also asks if Pierre will cater a banquet for up to thirty people. While an avowed Communist, the Frenchman agrees to the work.

 

Other guests include renowned archaeologist Max Mallowan and his wife, writer Agatha Christie. The dinner goes well, but afterward, several people show signs of food poisoning and someone dies. Suspicion falls on the chef. Georgie is almost sure he’s blameless, and she likes his cooking, so tries to clear his name.

 

Recurring series characters include Georgie’s Cockney ex-police Granddad, her redoubtable maid Queenie, Russian princess Zou Zou and various family members. By contrast, with many other Spyness mysteries, Georgie and Darcy don’t do anything very active; just motoring around, enjoying gardens and holding polite conversations. But the baby is expected within a month, so this is perfectly suitable. I noticed a good many of what I call Agatha Christie stock characters. These seemed to recur in her murder mysteries with different names. For instance, Edwin and Sylvia, the sulky grown children of Sir Mortimer, the explorer with a ‘red flag’ story, and a mature single lady who does charity work. Maybe this is a tribute to Christie in providing a typical Christie crime story, or maybe it’s because this limited cast was typical of the English middle and upper-crust social scene pre-WW2. I did pick out the killer and motive, but there’s plenty of tension, red herrings (again, very Christie) and an interesting poison garden to admire. Plus, a baby on the way. Fans of Rhys Bowen will find THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING a must-read.

Learn more about The Proof of the Pudding

SUMMARY

Lady Georgiana Rannoch is looking forward to her first ever turn as hostess for her very own house party when the festivities lead to murder…

Georgie, back home at her estate in Eynsleigh, impatiently awaits the birth of her baby. But she has plenty to occupy her: her new chef, Pierre, has arrived from Paris, and Sir Hubert, who owns Eynsleigh, is back from his latest expedition. It's time for Georgie to throw her first house party to celebrate his return and show off her new chef. The dinner party is a smashing success. Sir Mortimer Mordred—famous author of creepy Gothic horror novels—is one of the guests. He recently purchased a nearby Elizabethan manor nearby because it has a famous poison garden. After the dinner, Sir Mortimer approaches Georgie and asks to borrow her new chef for his upcoming party, and Georgie and Darcy, her dashing husband, are invited! 

The tour of the poison garden is fascinating, as is Sir Mortimer’s laboratory. Shockingly, just after the banquet several of the guests become sick.  And one dies, apparently poisoned by berries from the garden. But how could this be when they all ate the same meal and the same delectable dessert? Georgie has to find the culprit to save her new chef and her own reputation—all before her bundle of joy arrives!


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