Goodnight Sweet Prince

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The official version of the death of Edward, Duke of Clarence, in 1892 has long been questioned by historians. Pneumonia has always seemed a rather convenient form of death for someone as dissolute and sexually rapacious as Queen Victoria’s grandson was reputed to be. In Goodnight Sweet Prince David Dickinson, respected BBC radio and television editor, creates a scenario that is sure to satisfy conspiracy theorists and arouse the curiosity of those who love good mysteries.

Dickinson’s hero, Sir Francis Powerscourt, is a detective in the mold of Dorothy Sayers’ Sir Peter Wimsey. He is independently wealthy yet interested in assisting those in need. Responding to a request from Lord Roseberry, a member of the Government, Powerscourt discovers that Edward has been discovered in bed, throat cut, wrists slashed. Members of the Queen’s household insist that the murder be concealed, and concoct a cover story involving death by influenza. Powerscourt is enlisted to identify the murderer. His task is complicated by the fact that, for some time prior to Eddy’s death, blackmail notes had been received by Eddy’s father, the Prince of Wales. Rumors of the young Duke’s penchant for pursuing sexual pleasures--with men as well as women--drive Powerscourt to seek out past acquaintances and investigate the dead Royal’s relationship with his retainers, all young men whose public loyalty to the member of the Royal Family masks secrets that could make several of them murderers.

Powerscourt’s search takes him all over England and to Italy, where he discovers the killer and the reason that one of Edward’s closest allies had found the courage to carry out the heinous deed. Once he has carried out his mission, however, Powerscourt finds he is now in danger himself; the Royal Household does not want anyone around who might inadvertently reveal details of Eddy’s death. The suave detective’s ability to extricate himself from danger involves some curious plot twists that will satisfy not only those who appreciate mystery novels, but those who love history as well.