Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Day They Kidnapped Queen Victoria: Review

Fenian revolutionaries take control of Queen Victoria's private train as she sets off to make the journey from Balmoral Castle to Ayrshire where another statue of her beloved Albert is due to be unveiled. The Prince of Wales is also at risk because the Queen has insisted that he attend and to ensure his faithful attention she had arranged for his train to be attached to hers. The fanatics who have taken her and her royal entourage captive (including the Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson and the Queen's favorite John Brown), have stashed a quarter of a ton of gunpowder just next to the Queen's compartment and they are not afraid to blow her (and themselves) to kingdom come if anyone interferes with their plans. Tennyson, at the Queen's behest, attempts a daring plan to allow their safe escape--but a traitor among the Queen's retinue prevents the plan from being carried out and Tennyson is tossed from the train.  It will be up to Prime Minister Disraeli, Sir John Cowley, Lord Hartington, Lord Stanley, the Prince's special lady friend Skittles Walters, and an eccentric clergyman by the name of Charles Anderson to devise a plan that will save the Queen.

This book has a great deal of promise. It is all the rage these days to have historical figures detecting or directly involved in crimes--everyone from Jane Austen to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Oscar Wilde to Teddy Roosevelt are getting in on the act. The Day They Kidnapped Queen Victoria (first published 1969) is an earlier attempt at this genre. H. K. Fleming brings in a large cast of 19th Century historical figures and does a decent job at writing the historical novel without anachronisms. There are high-speed train chases and Tennyson's daring escape attempt. The final rescue solution is ingenious and plausible--as is the hijacking itself.  And yet...the story lacks a certain oomph, a certain amount of excitement and suspense that one would expect when the reigning monarch has been kidnapped and is virtually sitting atop a quarter ton of explosives with jumpy revolutionaries holding lit matches at the ready. It's a decently told tale, but not nearly as gripping as expected. There was no urgency on my part to get to the end and see how they saved her, and, despite being told that Disraeli and company were urgently trying to devise a rescue plan, I did not get a real sense of that urgency in the story. ★★ and a half.

This fulfills the "Crime Other Than Murder" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

I don't think this is one I would o will pick up but I still appreciate the great review.