Until recently Edward, the Duke of Clarence, who died in 1887, was noted for two things. On the one hand, his death meant his younger brother later ascended to the throne of England as George V. The late Duke is also, in the minds of many, a prime candidate for being the infamous Jack the Ripper. Since the publication of KING AND JOKER, however, he has become the progenitor of an alternative British royal family. Admittedly, it is a royal family with a slight difference--the king (Victor II) is bigamously married to Queen Isabella and her secretary Anona Fellowes. Moreover, his daughter by Fellowes has been presented as to the British public as Isabelle’s offspring Princess Louise.

Such is the world established in KING AND JOKER. In SKELETON-IN-WAITING, Princess Louise, clearly the most prestigious sleuth since Eleanor Roosevelt solved her first mystery, is in the midst of difficulties once again. The death of her grandmother Marie Romanov threatens to expose family secrets, including her own somewhat exceptional lineage. If the family does not gain possession of her correspondence, life could become very interesting indeed for the royal family. As if that were not enough to keep even the peripatetic Princess Louise busy, there is a problem with the Princess of Wales. Sophia is clearly on the verge of an emotional catastrophe--a circumstance which could mean that Louise’s own son David would be thrust into the position of heir to the throne.

Peter Dickinson, labeled the “master of the literate thriller,” has taken a different tack with this new series, combining what appears to be a careful depiction of royal life with the cliff-hanging suspense of a convoluted plot line that grips the reader until the obligatory denouement puts paid to all outstanding questions. SKELETON-IN-WAITING is a pleasant diversion, and it is to be hoped that King Victor II and his glorious brood will return to delight Dickinson’s legion of fans in yet another visit behind the castle walls.