Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Blotto, Twinks, & the Ex-King's Daughter

Blotto, Twinks and the Ex-King's Daughter (2009) by Simon Brett

The Ex-King of Mitteleuropa and his entourage has come to stay at the country estate of the duke of Tawcester (pronounced Taster) for rest, relaxation, and to experience the English hunt. The group includes the Ex-King's trusted confidante Captain Schtoltz, twin body guards Bogdan and Zoltan Grittelhoff, various courtly hangers-on, the Ex-Queen, and the beautiful Ex-Princess Ethelinde. The Duchess of Tawcester is pleased to host the exiled royals--it gives her a whole group of new people to be condescending to. But she is less than delighted when her butler Grimshaw informs her that one of her guests has died in the library. She uses her social standing to put pressure on the Chief Constable to sweep the matter under the rug, but she doesn't reckon with her headstrong (and very brainy) daughter, Twinks (aka Lady Honoria Lyminster).

Twinks is jolly good at detecting and she enlists the aide of her less intellectually endowed brother Blotto (aka the Right Honorable Devereaux Lyminster) to provide any brawn needed in the adventure. From a few flakes of cigar ash, a whiff of cologne, white paint on a button, and a piece of wool, she easily pieces together the events that led to Captain Schtoltz's death. She's even sure who the culprit is. But Blotto (who was slightly blotto after drinking several Mitteleuropian toasts with his guests) manages to fall asleep in a cozy, out-of-the-way corner only to awaken to the sound of a whispered conversation. He may not be swiftest horse in the hunt, but he does pick up the gist of the conversation--namely that a plot is afoot to kidnap the lovely Ethelinde. 

Despite the best-laid plans of Twinks, the evil-doer manages to get away with the plot and the Duchess herself sends Blotto, his chauffeur Corky Froggett, and a mysterious Mitteleuropian interpreter Klaus Schiffleich off to Mitteleuropa to restore the family honor...oh and rescue the Princess as well. A few surprises are in store for our happy band of rescuers and Blotto just might find himself king of a foreign country and married to the Princess if he's not careful. Where's Twinks when he needs her?

My take: First of all just let me say, if I had had to read one more "Toad-in-the-Hole!" exclamation or "Twinks, me old muffin" or "Rodents!" (as an expletive, apparently) from Blotto I may have thrown this book out the window. I'm all for a good parody (with a definite stress on good), but there is, as you may know, such a thing as too much of a good thing. Brett really stretches the limit on muchness. Absolutely everything about this is just a shade too much. Too much period slang. Too many repetitions of the same period slang. Too much English self-centrism (as Blotto says, "If only you lot all played cricket, you wouldn't feel so foreign"). Too many WAY over the top caricatures. This could have been a delightfully fun send up of the Golden Age mystery--if only Brett had wielded his pen with a less heavy hand. A disappointing read--I felt like I could have liked these characters a lot, had I been given a chance to do so. One bright spot (thus earning all the stars given) was the exciting ending. I do like a nice wrap-up. ★★

Deaths = 2 (one poisoned; one stabbed)

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