The Proof of the Pudding (A Royal Spyness Mystery)

Written by Rhys Bowen
Review by Lee Lanzillotta

Sussex, 1936. In the 17th of Bowen’s Royal Spyness series, Georgie’s new French cook, Pierre, attracts the admiration and envy of various neighbors – most especially Sir Mortimer, the author of a popular series of pulp novels. Sir Mortimer plans to host a dinner party for charity at his grim, gothic mansion, which is famous for its poison garden. Georgie agrees to lend him her cook to cater the festivities. However, after the dinner, multiple guests fall seriously ill. Pierre is the main suspect, on account of his communist sympathies and nationality. Georgie, despite being heavily pregnant, does her best to prove his innocence.

This delightful cozy mystery progresses at a leisurely pace, with the poisoning occurring about a third of the way through. Thus we get a solid introduction to the characters and their various idiosyncrasies. I personally found Zou Zou, the fabulous old Russian princess who serves as a kind of gift-bearing fairy godmother to Georgie, particularly marvelous. While the prose itself doesn’t exactly gleam with eloquence, the cast of jolly old English stereotypes – from elderly butlers to idle Oxford undergraduates – is compellingly written. Their often highly individual speech patterns really help bring the story to life.

Agatha Christie makes an appearance, along with her famed archeologist husband, and is in fact key to solving the crime.