Uneasy Lies the Crown (Lady Emily Mysteries)
Set in London in 1901 as Queen Victoria lies dying and the monarchy passes to Edward VII, this novel is predicated on the possibility of an attack on the new king. Lady Emily Hargreave’s husband, Colin, has been asked by the Queen shortly before her death to protect the new king. The Queen passes him a paper which contains neither hints nor instructions, but rather some apparently meaningless words.
Colin and Emily, assisted by their friend Jeremy in his new motor car, follow clues that lead them into the slums of London, where men have been killed and their bodies dressed to represent an English king of past times. The manner of death also represents the death of that monarch.
Regularly throughout the main narrative, a subplot switches the reader back to the time of King Henry V and his battles in France, including the victory at Agincourt. The main character of this period is William Hargrave, later knighted for his exceptional bravery in battle and his protection of the king. His wife, Cecily, the model of a perfect stay-at-home-in-the-castle-while-your-husband-goes-off-to-war wife, has her own troubles with a licentious cousin trying to bring her into disrepute.
Despite the choppiness of the transitions between the two narratives, Alexander manages to link them with the thoroughness of her research and her knowledge of English history. The extent of this research appears all too often, slowing the action and adding to the tedium of stereotypical characters that have flashing eyes and clenched teeth.
Contrasting the wealth of the nobility with the poverty of the London slums is a trope with many facets and possibilities. The patronage of Colin and his wife demonstrates tasteless elitism rather than the nobility that is implied in the opening of the novel.