Alanna Knight's "The Balmoral Incident" is the eighth book in her series of crime thrillers featuring Rose McQuinn and is a highly enjoyable read. Mrs McQuinn is a woman with a past. Her first husband, a Scottish policeman turned Pinkerton agent, disappeared in Arizona ten years previously and has long since been presumed dead. Rose McQuinn returned from the States to her native Edinburgh where her father, the renowned police detective Inspector Faro, had made his name. Here she tried to settle into a quieter life than the one she had known evading Apache raiding parties and pursuing outlaws with her husband. More recently she has married another Edinburgh policeman and become stepmother to young Meg: but continues the career she has built for herself as "Lady Investigator, Discretion Guaranteed".
We join Rose as she is preparing to go on holiday. She has been invited to spend part of the summer at Balmoral Castle on Deeside by her stepbrother, who is physician to King Edward VII. The year is 1905 and Rose and Meg are to stay in an estate cottage with their deerhound Thane. But two unexplained deaths darken the atmosphere on the royal estate and all Rose's instincts as a detective tell her that the deaths are not the accidents the police and household claim. But Rose's interest in finding out the truth is not appreciated, and it soon becomes clear that there are powerful forces at work and danger may lurk around every corner.
It seems almost obligatory these days for readers of crime novels to trip over a dead body before the first page or two have run their course. "The Balmoral Incident" takes a much more measured approach, and the feeling of menace builds nicely as a result. It's clear from the dustjacket blurb that there will be bodies, but for the first half of the book much of the enjoyment comes from trying to work out not who the murderer is, but who the victims are going to be. Meanwhile we have a setting which provides a fine backdrop to the story, a king whose moral outlook is distinctly questionable, and more than a hint of establishment conspiracy and cover-up. The conclusion, when it arrives, is both unexpected and satisfying.