Love and Death Among the Cheetahs (A Royal Spyness Mystery)

Written by Rhys Bowen
Review by Judith Starkston

Love and Death Among the Cheetahs is the thirteenth in Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness Series. Lady Georgiana Rannoch and her new, handsome Irish husband, Darcy O’Mara, are off to Kenya for their honeymoon. Georgie suspects the sudden choice of Africa as the location may have something to do with Darcy’s secret work for the government, but it’s exciting anyway, so she’s not complaining—much. The Queen has also given Georgie the task of observing the Prince of Wales while he conducts a Commonwealth tour in Africa. Georgie doesn’t see how she can stop him from entering a precipitous marriage to the newly divorced Mrs. Simpson as the queen commands, but she’ll do her best. Upon her arrival in the not-so-aptly named Happy Valley, the center of upper-class English life in Kenya, Georgie discovers that the powerful families have gone rogue in several ways: politically, sexually and morally. The dangers from the humans quickly exceed those presented by the wild animals even before a dead body turns their honeymoon into a grim investigation.

One of the admirable features of this long-running series is the way Bowen combines light, humorous stories with nuanced, deep social issues. This novel explores ingrained racial prejudices and the moral blind spots surrounding race that the White settlers develop—all of which profoundly echoes our contemporary debate. This highly entertaining mystery set in 1935 prods the reader’s thinking on these complex issues in sophisticated and penetrating ways, all without a moment of preachiness. You’ll never notice your brain and heart are fully engaged as Bowen’s skillful storytelling draws you eagerly forward in Georgie’s latest adventure into murder and royal mayhem.