Member Reviews

A Murder at Balmoral was a fun royal whodunnit with several twists and turns. Royal chef Jon Alleyne is one of only two staff to stay behind on Christmas Day at Balmoral with the royal family. After the king’s sudden death, Jon is tasked with being the detective to solve his murder. Along the way, we find out more of Jon’s story, and many incriminating facts about the royal family. They all have something to hide and therefore all have a motive. But there’s more going on at Balmoral than it seems. Hopefully Jon can catch a killer before it’s too late for the rest of the family.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance copy.

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This closed door cozy mystery has several twists and left me guessing throughout. As an American I’ve been obsessed with the Royals as long as I can remember so I was so excited to read this one.

Chris McGeorge has written an alternate history whereby Edward VII didn’t abdicate and there are a totally new set of royals who are celebrating Christmas at Balmoral. A blizzard moves in and they’re stranded there.

~King Eric, beloved and respected and intending to announce his successor in his annual Christmas speech. As he is making his toast he dies after taking a sip of his whiskey.
~Marjorie, Princess Royal- never named Queen and a bit of a lush
~Emmeline, older by a few minutes and engaged but her fiancé Anton was not invited to celebrate at Balmoral
~Maud, the younger twin- married to a commoner and mother to two boys
~Thomas, who the family believes is leaking info to the tv show “Monarch” (think The Crown)
~Matthew, the likely successor
~Martin, the little helper

King Eric has sent everyone else away from Balmoral for the weekend except for
~Tony, the security guard, and
~Jon, the personal chef who is devoted to the royal family and is our narrator. The family elects Jon to be the investigator in the death of King Eric.

The beginning moved a bit slowly for me but then picked up and the pace was great. Each chapter begins to delve into each character as Jon interviews them and in the last half I didn’t want to stop reading. Amazing twists and so timely! It’s The Crown meets Clue meets Agatha Christie.

Thanks to NetGalley and GP Putnam for the early review copy!

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A MURDER AT BALMORAL by Chris McGeorge is a twisty-turny whodunnit featuring members of the British royal family.

(Note: this is completely fictional royal family set in an alternate universe where King Edward never abdicated the throne in 1936.)

It’s Christmas Day at Balmoral, and by King Eric’s special request, no one is present but the royal family. The only staff is a security guard and Jon, the king’s chef. But then the king drops dead during the after-dinner toast—was the whisky poisoned? With the security guard missing, chef Jon becomes the only neutral third-party, and is quickly appointed detective, tasked with finding the killer.

This has to be one of the twistiest mysteries I’ve read. It starts slow, but after the 50% mark, it really picks up. By 80% I was reading obsessively, and by 90%, I was shocked. There are so many small clues scattered throughout the book, some that I recognized as clues and some that seemed unimportant, and they all are tied up nicely in the end. Family secrets and thirsts for power and revenge abound, and I never knew who to point the finger at.

I wasn’t a big fan of the writing, which tended to get bogged down by details, and the characters veered on cartoonish. As the protagonist, Jon started off almost pitiful—he’s an immigrant from Barbados, with a difficult childhood before working his way to the top of his career, and yet didn’t have the assertion or confidence I’d expect from a top chef. But by the end of the book, he’s a changed man, and I ended up loving his development.

My advice? Suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride.

Thank you to G.P. Putnam's Sons and NetGalley for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

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What a fun and atmospheric murder mystery! It was quickly placed and kept me engaged the entire time. I appreciated the descriptions that really lent to tension the entire story, A fantastic read I recommend to mystery lovers and royal family enthusiasts.

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A wonderful mix of a "what if" different version of history and a cozy, Christmasy murder mystery. McGeorge expertly blends in the backstory of our Chef Jon and the head scratching clues of who in the royal family may have murdered their own kin and King. It really could have been anyone who had done it and McGeorge leaves you guessing right to the end!

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I think the concept was strong, but there was so much here that was so farfetched that I couldn't really lose myself in the mystery. Good for you for finishing a novel. I hope others enjoy it.

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3.5 stars

You can read all of my reviews at Nerd Girl Loves Books.

This is a good locked-door mystery set in an alternative universe England where King Edward VIII did not abdicate and marry an American divorcee. In this story, his lineage sits on the throne. As the story begins, King Eric has required his immediate family attend Christmas as Balmarol and he's sent all of the staff away, except his chef Jonathon and his head security officer. During an after dinner speech, King Eric begins to speak, begins choking, and falls to the ground. Moments later, he's dead. Each member of the family has motive and opportunity, is keeping secrets, and they've elected the chef to investigate the murder.

Jonathon is overwhelmed by the responsibility of the investigation, not to mention trying to question the royal family. I could feel his discomfort as he attempts to do right by the King and discover who poisoned him, all while keeping his own painful secret. As things become progressively worse, and Jonathon begins to worry he'll never solve the mystery, tragedy strikes again.

This was a fun, quick read. The story was fairly well-paced, and Jonathon made a good sleuth, despite his reservations. The royal family were interesting, although they were depicted as more stereotypical archetypes than fully fleshed out characters. The twists and turns were fun, although I have to admit, I wasn't a big fan of the way the mystery turned out. However, the ending was satisfying.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam. All opinions are my own.

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McGeorge did a terrific job with the pacing of the whodunit. I was a bit startled when the murderer was unmasked with about 20% of the book left; however, there were many surprises still to come! It was easy to identify with the reluctant detective, who only accepted the role out of a sense of duty “for King and country,” and then was attacked for his efforts.
Well done.

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A Murder at Balmoral is a very Agatha Christie-esque whodunnit, featuring a fictional British royal family whose king is murdered one snowy Christmas afternoon. James, the royal family's long-time chef and one of the only staff members present at Balmoral at the time of the murder, not only witnesses the king's death but also becomes the chief investigator. With every family member a suspect, James must delicately get to the bottom of this tragedy while avenging his dear friend, the king's, untimely demise. While I did not actually enjoy this book, I can understand why mystery lovers might like it. I would have liked more "action" -- there were several chapters where everyone is literally standing around talking to one another -- but I did appreciate the dark humor interwoven throughout. A Murder at Balmoral is perfect for fans of cozy mysteries and British royal fiction like Downton Abbey.

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Thanks to Penguin Group Putnam and NetGalley for the ARC!

This was a super fun murder mystery based around the British royal family….only not as we know them. Edward VIII didn’t abdicate the throne, and the royal house of Windsor looks a little different! The king has been murdered, so obviously, someone needs to figure out who dunnit.

A closed room/castle mystery set at beautiful Balmoral Castle, where our detective ends up being the king’s personal chef, Jon. I kind of went into this book blind, but it was just overall a fun read with commentary on the royal family, and it’s own spoof of Netflix’s The Crown. Best to go in not knowing much more than what’s in the synopsis!

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Thank you Penguin and NetGalley for providing an arc for an honest review.

I love the concept of a closed door murder mystery. Throw in a cast of royal characters and Christmas time you have yourself a fun Christmassy murder mystery. In this alternative history King Edward VII didn't abdicate and his son Eric is now the ruler. He gathers the family for a traditional Christmas at Balmoral Castle and decides he will name his successor at dinner, when of course he drops dead. It is up to Jon the head chef to find the murderer before the blizzard lets up and everyone can leave. Which I'm sure you can imagine how well a staff member interviewing the royal family for the murder of the king will go. It did move a bit slow in parts, mostly the detailed interviews which were necessary but drug a little bit. All in all I really enjoyed this book. With plenty of intrigue, family secrets, and shocking revelations it is a great Christmas mystery.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley and Chris McGeorge for providing me with a complimentary digital ARC for A Murder at Balmoral coming out October 25, 2022. The honest opinions expressed in this review are my own.

The king is murdered. Long live the king? What if the killer is in the family?

It’s Christmastime at Balmoral Castle in Scotland for the royal family. It’s frightfully snowing outside as a scrumptious dinner is cooked and the family gathers around the table for a royal toast. King Eric asks for everyone’s attention. As he’s about to name his successor, he drops dead. They suspect his favorite whiskey has been poisoned. 

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 momentous to say—in fact, he is about to name his successor. But as he raises a glass of his favorite whiskey, he drops dead.

The head chef Jonathan assumes the role of detective to find out which one of them poisoned the king. They all had opportunity and motive. Jon is determined to expose the truth and find the killer. Can he solve the case?

I’ve been to a couple castles in Scotland so I was really interested in reading a Murder at Balmoral. I’ve heard things about it and it seemed like a really fun setting. Overall, I loved this story! I was glad the royal family is fictional rather than based on real people. I did think it would be set further back in time, but I still enjoyed it. The twist wasn’t my favorite. I really don’t like what the mother did. I don’t like it used as a plot in books. I think I was expecting something else from the ending. Maybe a little more closure. I would be interested in reading more books by this author though.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys the royals and murder mysteries!

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Very well told story of what if? What if King Edward VIII didn’t abdicate? What if his son is now King? King Eric has decided to spend Christmas in Balmoral with only the Royal family and trusted chef Jon, also Mr. Speck for security. Balmoral is fairly secluded and there is a raging blizzard going on, one would think the Royals could enjoy Christmas as a family in peace. But there are secrets abound within the family and some have come to light. The King has individually addressed the family one on one and after Christmas dinner was served the family gathers together in the parlor to toast the King’s traditional Christmas speech. As the King starts speaking he take a sip of his favorite whiskey and before he can continue he falls over dead. Jon his chef and sometimes friend is first to his side. And so starts the mystery, with only 7 Royals and 2 employees in the castle…..whodunnit?
I was throughly surprised how much I enjoyed reading the make believe Windsor. Yes I did guess how King Eric died, but everyone seem to have a reason to do the deed. The story did move at a fast pace and many times you want to shout what about him? The ending was not what I expected, which is a nice change of pace. Thank you NetGalley for this eARC. I am voluntarily posting an honest review after reading an Advance Reader Copy of this story. #NetGalley #AMurderatBalmoral

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3.5. This is a fun mystery set within an alternative history (i.e., who would be the ruler of England if King Edward VIII hadn't abdicated the throne?), and I like that a character of color played the main investigator and protagonist; however, poor Jon is absolutely put through the wringer. He works tirelessly for King Eric and meticulously interviews each member of the family about his murder (making the book tedious at times, honestly), and his ending is...tough. I won't spoil it, but I felt like he deserved better and didn't care for the other characters. There are some twists I didn't anticipate, but the villains are also a little...cartoonish and cruel.

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This was a great concept that just wasn't executed very well. The characters seemed to be one dimensional, so I didn't necessary connect with any of them; I felt a little, but didn't really care much what happened to any of them. Also, lots of clues thrown out that they never revisit and then are just seemingly forgotten or a random piece of info thrown out off the cuff that suddenly has major implications at the very end. It was...all just a bit confusing for me.

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This is a royal locked room murder mystery - and if you don’t know much about the royals? That’s fine, because this is an alternate history and they wouldn’t be the royals you knew anyway.

It’s told from the point of view of the chef. He along with a lone security guard are the only staff on duty for the King’s Christmas gathering with his close family at Balmoral. When the King falls dead just as he’s about to give his yearly speech, the entire family is shocked (or are they?)

With the security guard unreachable, presumed out of walkie talkie reach making rounds of the grounds during the vicious snowstorm, the chef is (unhappily) put in charge of trying to solve the murder. And even if the family appointed him - determined him to be the most objective and motiveless person in attendance - I’m sure you can imagine how well a staff member questioning and accusing the royal family would go down.

The story had several mysteries and revelations that kept me interested all the way to the very last page. And I might have had good guesses for who did the murdering, but I never did get the motive before the reveal (and trying to figure out that bit ahead of time was just *killing* me)

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin/Putnam for the arc!

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I wonder how many murder mysteries I’ve read where the suspects are all holed up together in a big castle/country house/mountain lodge/hotel, cut off from everyone by a blizzard. I don’t know the number off the top of my head, but it’s a lot, and it’s an irresistible sub-genre for me, especially when you add an element of alternative history.

It’s just a small element of alternative history. In this book, it’s imagined that King Edward VII married appropriately rather than abdicated for the love of Wallis Simpson. It’s never explained how that leads to a present-day 85-year-old King Eric Windsor. I suppose he must be the eldest son of Edward VII, though it’s hard to see anyone naming an heir apparent Eric. It doesn’t really matter, though, because all of this is clearly just a device to set a British royal family murder mystery at Balmoral without using any of the actual British royal family.

The story is told from the point of view of Jon Alleyne, the King’s personal chef. Jon has been with the King for many years, having been hired straight out of his sub-chef job in a London Caribbean restaurant after a fateful encounter with the royal family. Jon is the son of a Bahamian mother and a white father he never knew. He has devoted his life to someone else’s family.

King Eric’s up to something this Christmas. He’s going to make a big announcement at Christmas dinner, and he’s given each member of the a private audience beforehand—one which, by appearances, few enjoyed..

Our characters in this novelistic game of Royal Clue are the King, his estranged and alcoholic wife Marjorie, his black-sheep and also alcoholic brother David, his elder daughter Emmeline, her younger-by-10-minutes sister Maud and her husband Thomas Crockley and two sons Matthew and Martin, the onsite security man Tony Speck, and Jon. All the other staff have been given the day off, with Jon expected to prepare and serve the sumptuous dinner for eight. Cue the blizzard, which arrives while Jon spends the morning cooking. He serves the dinner bang on 12:30, the family eats, the King gets up to give his speech, takes a drink of his traditional single-malt Scotch, and down he goes, stone dead.

With the house completely cut off by the blizzard, and all electronic devices having been taken away from the now-disappeared security man Speck, the family members vote (with some dissent) to put it up to Jon to figure out whodunnit. This is a bit of a slog, as the amateur detective interviews each member of the family, ferreting out their dirty little secrets to see what motives he might scare up. In the process, he also reminded unpleasantly over and over of his place in the royal household.

I see by looking at other reviews that opinions are sharply divided about the resolution. I liked it, because it seemed fitting to me in light of what The Crown and various exposés tell us about the behind-the-scenes operation of the monarchy.

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Enjoyable locked-room mystery where the king is poisoned in an alternate history where Edward VIII never abdicated. Normally alternate history novels put me off but it was fine in this novel.

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A Murder at Balmoral is a story of the royal family if the crown took a different path. It's Christmas and the King has brought together his wife, children, grandchildren and his brother for dinner at Balmoral. All staff has been dismissed except for his beloved chef, and friend, Jonathan and the head of security. With a blizzard raging outside no one can get out or get in. Or can they? Someone has poisoned the King and it is up to Jonathan to figure out which royal did it before it is too late. I wanted to love this story. It sounded right up my alley. Exactly the kind of mystery I love to sink my teeth into, but for some reason it fell flat with me. Even so it held my attention until the end. I think the problem was I didn't really connect with any of the characters and some things just didn't seem to flow, but seemed more contrived to just move the story along. Others will find this book a good fit for them and be kept on the edge of their seats until the end.

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I started out simply loving this book, an alternate history that posits that Edward VIII did NOT abdicate, so the royal family that exists today are HIS family. Cool idea. The set up is great. The reigning King, Eric, has requested that the family be alone for Christmas at Balmoral except for the Chef (obvs) and one security guard. As the story opens, the chef delivers the King his morning tea and the King is mightily amused at the sight of one of the royal secretaries attempting to leave the castle in a raging snow storm.

The chef, however, has a different problem - without a staff he is left creating the entirety of the royal Christmas feast alone. He manages to do it, but unfortunately the King drops dead just after dinner, before he can deliver the family version of his public Christmas day speech. The security man has disappeared, so it's left to Chef Jon to assume the role of detective.

The investigation is conducted in an utterly charming manner, with Jon interviewing (somewhat uncomfortably) each member of the royal family as he tries to unravel the puzzle. Each member of the family is distinct and interestingly unforgettable - so each interview is different and sheds a bit of light on the unfolding story.

So far, so great. A really fun, traditional mystery with all the right elements and then the ending (in my opinion) spoils the whole thing, taking on an entirely different tone from the rest of the novel. Sure, it's clever, but it's in bad faith. It's as though the author wrote two different books. I enjoyed the first one very much but was dismayed by the ending. A very equivocal recommend, because 3/4 of the book is worth it.

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