Cover Image: A Murder at Balmoral

A Murder at Balmoral

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My first thought when I started reading this was the timing wasn’t too good for its release (since as of the date of writing this review, the Queen just passed away last week.)  But it’s made clear up front that although this deals with a murder of a member of the British Royal Family, the family is fictional and, interestingly enough, is created on the assumption that Edward VIII never abdicated his throne.  That’s about as far as the factual Royal Family is concerned as near as I can tell (not being British and not being very knowledgeable on that particular subject).

Now that I’ve gotten my lack of British Royal lineage out of the way, let’s move on to the story.

On Christmas Day, King Eric calls his family together at Balmoral.  They include his wife, Majorie, who has never been made Queen; his fresh-out-of-exile younger brother David, whom no one likes; his eldest daughter Emmeline, who is upset her fiance was not invited; his youngest daughter Maud, her commoner husband Thomas, and her two sons Matthew and Martin.  All of the servants have been sent away from the castle, save head chef Jon and head of security, Tony.

The family anticipates that King Eric will name his successor during his Christmas speech.  But after the first sip of whiskey, the king falls dead.  Who killed him?  Every member of the family had a motive, except perhaps for 18-year-old Matthew, the favorite to be named the next king. As a blizzard rages outside and Tony is inexplicably missing, the family turns to Jon to investigate Eric’s death.  Aside from being in way over his head with no skills transferable from Chef to Detective, Jon finds his loyalty to the Family and the Crown severely tested as he tries to tease apart what went horribly wrong during this Christmas celebration.

Quite an intriguing premise.  A (fictional) royal family in a locked room mystery.   Should be easy with only about nine people in the castle, but the comings and goings were well placed so that any of them could have poisoned the king.  At first I was a little surprised that the chef was the only point of view character, but then gave myself a mental palm-to-the-forehead.  Of course, he was the only one not a suspect.  The only problem with that is that the reader never really gets to know any of the other characters.  And this is important because their motives rest on their feelings toward the king and being a member of the royal family in general.

For about the first three-fourths of the book, things hummed along well.  There were a few frustrating bits when obvious clues were never picked up on because Jon either ignored them or forgot about them almost immediately.  I suppose it made sense for the character (considering the stress) but my brain was screaming, “But what about…?” Only for that clue to become super important later, yet also still unexplained.

Overall, the plot was good, but I never quite connected with any of the characters.  If you love a unique mystery and aren’t too concerned about it being character-driven, this one is for you.

Thank you to NetGalley Penguin Group Putnam for providing the ARC.  I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.
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A Murder at Balmoral
Genre: Thriller
Format: Kindle eBook 
Date Published: 10/25/22
Author: Chris McGeorge
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Pages: 384
GR: 3.49

I requested a digital advanced readers copy from NetGalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons and providing my opinion voluntarily and unbiased.

Synopsis: The royal family has gathered at their Scottish retreat, Balmoral Castle, for a traditional Christmas. As a blizzard gathers outside and a delicious dinner is prepared, the family circles up for a holiday toast. King Eric has something is about to name his successor. But as he raises a glass of his favorite whiskey, he drops dead. The king has been poisoned, someone in the family must have done it, and each one of them had opportunity and motive. Eric's beloved head chef, Jonathan, must now play detective. Why would one of the king's own family members want to kill him, and how did they do it?

My Thoughts: As with any family, this one is not without complete dysfunction. The one person who does not have a grudge against the King, Chef Jonathan, has to investigate as to who could have done this. The pacing was good on this whodunit murder mystery. While I love a good murder mystery, I struggled a little with this one. I think maybe I had a hard time because I could not connect with any of the characters and while the pacing was good, the flow was different as some things was deep dived and other things breezed over. I was a little disappointed for the ending, I was hoping for more. This was not a bad book, I just wanted more. I know this will be a great book for some readers.
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A bit of a lackluster whodunit with a strange twist. 

Let's get the obvious out of the way: the timing on this book could be better, through no fault of the author. Currently it's scheduled to be published in October 2022, but I'm sure someone's weighing the pros and cons of moving the release date as I write this. While this book is about the death at Balmoral of the reigning Windsor monarch, it's not exactly the Windsor family you'd recognize. This takes place in an alternate universe in which Edward did not abdicate for Wallis Simpson and instead married an acceptable bride and fathered a line of Windsor royals--of which, the ill-fated King Eric is one. (In other words, the Charles/William/Harry branch of the family likely still exists, just further down in the line of succession.) Yes, in this parallel universe, there is still a Netflix series about the life of the current Windsor on the throne--only it's The Monarchy and not The Crown. And if you are looking for a skeevy black sheep who is reviled for probable criminal acts, well, it turns out this branch of the Windsors has one, too. In other words, it's like your Windsors, but not.

King Eric has decided to have a family Christmas at Balmoral and has sent away all but a few staff members. As he prepares for his annual Christmas speech, he brings his family in one by one for chats that leave them shaken. After Christmas dinner and just as he begins his speech, King Eric takes of sip of whiskey, keels over, and is dead within moments. His loyal chef, Jonathan, suspects he's been poisoned...and with no one around but the king and his family, it's probable that one of the family members is to blame. The family nominates him to begin an investigation, and he become an amateur Poirot.

Likeable as Jon is as the everyman thrust into an unenviable position amongst this cast of potential murderers, he's a terrible detective. Not just because he follows strange red herrings, but it's like he's never once seen or read a mystery to know how to begin to unravel one. The killer (or killers?) is obvious, as is the method, and the twists and turns are a bit outlandish. And the ending is so distasteful--I'm not a monarchist by any stretch, but at a certain point it seems like the point of the book is less the mystery and more the rousing of antimonarchical sentiments.

Anyway, if you're here for the whodunit, you're about to have a "meh" time. If you are here to skewer some royals, well, grab your popcorn and settle in, because you'll be creeped out by them all by the time you hit the final page.
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This was a cozy, locked-room mystery set at Balmoral with an alternative British royal family. Since Queen Elizabeth II had just died, I decided to give it a try. There were better ways to honor the late queen, I’m sure. 

As a mystery, it was okay. Not the best I’ve ever read but not the worst. The addition of an alternative royal family, rather than making the book something special, instead tended to make it unrealistic and, at times, silly. Starting with the easily corrected misuse of the term Princess Royal, there were things that made little sense and distracted from the story. 

Despite the distractions, I did read the entire book. While the mystery was interesting, the characters were certainly a mixed bag and the writing could have used some help. However, it was the ending that really brought this story down. Not my cup of tea!

My copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to the the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review it.
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True locked room mystery, this time in Balmoral castle and the suspects are the royal family. Interesting reading this the week of Queen Elizabeth II' s death at the scene of the crime. As seen through the perspective of the chef who ends up being the sleuth. this alternate Windsor royal family certainly can be labeled as dysfunctional. Family secrets are an integral part of the story, I enjoyed it and really liked the ending
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overall this reminded me a lot of Agatha Christie's- Death on the Nile.  I will sy the book didn't really pick up until half way through and it was slow to get into. I liked the alternative timeline but it was hard to keep all the characters separate since they had the same initial. the ending I thought was good with the twists and turns but I would love to have seen the exposure at the end.
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I received an Advanced Reader copy from Netgalley. The title caught my eye. This was before the Queen died at Balmoral. If you like Agatha Christie mysteries, you will enjoy this book. There are so many red herrings that I was not able to guess who did it. The secrets that are revealed keep you guessing. Jon, the chef, is the main character. I respected his thought process while trying to uncover the murderer. The Royal Family has secrets that need protection. Who is really looking out for the family? Highly recommend that you read this novel.
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a great 'whodunnit' and the description of 'The Crown' meets "Clue' was very apt.  This was an interesting story, especially as it paralleled certain world events taking place currently, but that just drew me into the story more
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An exciting concept of a royal mystery if a few things in the House of Windsor were different. A locked door mystery with royal drama, puzzles a plenty, and plenty of hints to some real life royal scandals. The pacing of the story was a little off for me, and I found myself feeling like entire chapters were a waste of time- but I think for some people this mystery will be the perfect cozy winter read!
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Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for an e-galley in exchange for an honest review. I have to admit, reading this during the mourning period for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was...a bit eerie. Considering she passed away at Balmoral, the book took place at Balmoral, King Eric was in Her place in the was all a bit surreal. All of that said, it was an interesting book!! I found myself mulling over the story and characters and "whodunnit" when I wasn't reading it, which is always a good sign-in my estimation-of a good mystery novel. I was so off base on the answer, but given the juxtaposition of what is currently going on in England...well-McGeorge couldn't have had eerier or more on-the-nose-timing if he had tried, so perhaps that colored my takeaway from this novel. Overall, this was a great locked-room type mystery, with an intriguing cast of characters and a great amateur sleuth at the helm.
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It seems disrespectful to be reviewing this title as the Queen just died at Balmoral.
But this is a fictional monarch(a King)and an imaginary royal family loosely based on the Windsors.
The family has gathered at  Balmoral for the Christmas celebration. At the King's request all staff with the exception of Jon, the chef who has served the King for 37 years, has been sent away. When a blizzard sets in the stage is set for the locked-castle mystery.
After dinner the family gathers in the drawing room to open gifts. The wine and whiskey flow freely but everyone sobers up quickly when after a sip of his drink, the
 King drops dead!
Jon, as the only non-royal is appointed to lead an investigation.  He quickly discovers that everyone has a motive and his job is to pinpoint the killer.
Long-held family resentments and a shocking secret are revealed. In addition, it becomes clear that the King had planned to dissolve the monarchy!
This is a fantastic mystery with lots of wonderfully drawn characters. It will keep you guessing until the end!
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Murder at Balmoral is a fun romp of a murder mystery. It features many of the tropes often found in this genre, including a cast of characters with secrets that are possible motives. red herrings, and a twist at the end (although I did guess "whodunit".) While the plot does bog down at points, the book generally keeps the reader's interest through the unfolding of tantalizing details and clues.

The interesting premise of the story is that the Duke of Windsor never abdicated and England is now ruled by King Eric, a monarch  from another branch of the family. King Eric has requested that the entire family join him for Christmas where he plans to make a major announcement (possibly abdication). The plot thickens when a  blizzard develops and the family is trapped in the castle along with their head of security and their chef Jon. When Eric is mysteriously murdered, suspicion falls on each family member. Jon is selected to lead the investigation and he questions each family member in turn.

Jon is an interesting protagonist. As chef and friend of the king, he has insights about all the characters  and uses these insights to guide his investigation. Additionally, because he is black, and not a family member, he experiences racism and classism as each family member reveals their true personality. This allows for some subtle social commentary.

The book did get slow for me when Jon starts the investigation by separately interviewing each family member. There are a lot of family members, resulting in a lot of chapters devoted to this purpose. I started to feel like the narrative needed to move forward earlier in the book.

There were also aspects of the narrative that stretched credibility: Jon running outside in a blizzard without a coat, the king's secretary suddenly appearing after supposedly leaving the castle, the inability to connect with the outside world in any way, etc. However, in general the author kept all the clues and plot details straight.

The ending did feel rushed as if the author was done. However, I did think the final twist was satisfying.

Fun book that will likely appeal to royal watchers and mystery enthusiasts..
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I was enticed to read A Murder at Balmoral by Chris McGeorge, since it was aimed at fans of Clue, The Crown and Agatha Christie. I love a good puzzling mystery as well as royal fiction, so it sounded like a good fit for me. I was pulled into the early parts of the book where the royal family gathers together for Christmas with minimal staff and a raging blizzard outside. When the king dropped dead during his speech, I was prepared for an intense mystery. My expectations were only partially met.

The short chapters with cliffhanger endings compelled me to read on, and the writing was strong, but things went downhill after the sudden reappearance of one of the characters.

While I enjoyed most of this book, some plot points near the end seemed very out of character. I also think I would have enjoyed it more it if had taken place in a historical period rather than in a contemporary setting. It is hard to believe in this day and age that a royal family of means would ever find themselves completely cut off from the rest of the world.

I will still recommend this to diehard murder mystery buffs who enjoy a locked room mystery.

Thank you to Penguin Group Putnam and NetGalley for the e-arc in exchange for my honest review.
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This is a closed door murder mystery featuring an alternate version of the British royals - these are the folks that would be in charge if the King had not made his proverbial speech (and I am referencing that Colin Firth movie that I did not see here; I don't know any of these people's names, perhaps he was a George?).  Anyway, the king is about to announce his successor when he keels over from poisoning.  The only person that could've done it was one of the other royals.  

Ok, so by that pretty terrible description, you can probably tell that I'm not terribly up to speed on all things royal (I legit didn't realize Balmoral was a real place until the death of the Queen), but I do like books about royals and a good closed door mystery so I was in!  Unfortunately the book didn't deliver in quite the way I wanted; though I think your mileage will vary based on your expectations.  I was expecting something a little more salacious than what I got.  Like, I wanted some hot dishy scandals, y'all, but since the main character was the chef and, you know, rather inept at the whole detective game, we spend a lot of the time wandering around the castle or minding our food timers or traipsing around outside in a blizzard for reasons that didn't make a ton of sense to me.  Hot goss aside, the real issue for me was the total lack of character development - the only person who gets developed is the main character who is interesting in theory, but in actuality is quite boring and more than a bit sad  (his entire adult life was basically just "chef to the royals" and how sad is that?).  The mystery itself was somewhat interesting - I guessed certain aspects immediately and other things were a surprise, but by the end, I still didn't care about any of the characters so the whole thing fell flat.

I think there's a reader for this book, but I am not that reader.  I will keep it in my back pocket for adult reader's advisory, though - lots of folks love a mystery.   2 Goodreads stars, 3 Netgalley stars - it was ok, I will recommend it.  Thanks to Netgalley and G.P. Putnam's Sons for the eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review.  A Murder at the Balmoral is out in late October, but you can put your copy on hold now!
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I started reading this right after Queen Elizabeth’s death at Balmoral Castle and thought of the act of reading and reviewing it as a tribute to the queen.  Although the mystery of the story involves a totally fictional Windsor family, the question of the value of the monarchy that is raised here has also been a topic in the news.
The story reads like a classic drawing room mystery with a murder — in this case King Eric, 80 year monarch and patriarch of a very dysfunctional family — and a number of potential suspects, all members of the royal family,  and each with a specific motive.
The part of the “detective” is reluctantly played by Jonathan, chef and loyal friend to the king for 30 years. He is suffering a double burden of a terminal illness and being disrespected by all the survivors. It is heartbreaking to see his faithful service rewarded with such contempt.
The story takes many twists, (some of them could stand some editing) and the ending was somewhat of a letdown, but overall, I’m glad to have read it. And somehow, I have a sneaking suspicion, many members of this royal family are just as flawed.
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This was a fun concept. I expected a fluffy read, and that is what I got. That is not a bad thing - although I must say it didn't read as quickly or easily as I expected it to, given the type of cozy mystery it was presented as.. It was fine, but not my favorite of the genre. The characters felt a little overdone, even for a locked room cozy, and the plot just didn't quite click along for me the way I thought it would.
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An interesting premise and told from a fun perspective. A good cast of characters though they could have used a little fleshing out— the uncle and wife seemed like caricatures While I couldn’t keep the two sisters straight. Some parts were overly verbose and dragged a little but overall it was a fun intrigue.
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*I received a copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for this opportunity*

As a fellow reviewer put it, this book is a delicious mix of Clue, the crown, and Christie. Set in an alternate modern day, A MURDER AT BALMORAL is set at the beloved Balmoral (where, somewhat ironically, the actual Queen just passed) during a blinding snowstorm. After making the unconventional decision to have Christmas dinner with just the family and two staff members, tragedy (of a calculated sort) strikes when the king winds up dead. What follows afterwards is a classic whodunit of royal proportions. 

With the immigrant chef providing the bulk of the narration, BALMORAL provides some social commentary on the role and purpose of the Royal family. However, the book ended up falling flat for me. Perhaps it was the pacing or the dues ex machina ending, but I didn't find myself loving this bok as much as I wanted to.

Overall, this is a good pick for anyone looking to satisfy a royal itch or just settle down with a good mystery on a cold night.
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McGeorge’s premise of an alternate royal family is interesting and the characters where complex and well written, especially the MC, Jon. I also appreciated the commentary on the roles of the monarchy in today’s society. I do have to say the murder mystery setup was intriguing and had my interest piqued but in the end it felt like it was a bit too over-the-top and I really didn’t; like the way it ended. Despite my disappointment in the ending, I am interested in reading more from this author. So, if you looking for a wintery locked-room mystery, with tons of royal drama and a very twisty ending this book might be right up your alley. 

I received this eARC thanks to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Putnam, G.P. Putnam's Sons in exchange for an honest review. Publishing dates are subject to change.
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Really enjoyed the cast of characters in this suspenseful novel.  The story had a very Agatha Christie feel to it, as all characters had motive and opportunity to commit the murder with very few clues given to point you to any single suspect.
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