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King And Joker (1993)

King and Joker (1993)

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3.83 of 5 Votes: 5
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0446403091 (ISBN13: 9780446403092)
mysterious press

About book King And Joker (1993)

I have only read one of Peter Dickenson’s many detective crime novels (thanks to a recent Nancy Pearl recommendation,) and this novel was as immediately distinctive and engaging.Published in 1976 and set in Buckingham Palace and London of the mid 1970’s, the principal players are not members of the Royal Family as we know them. Rather, the plot involves an alternate Royal Family based on the premise that the Duke of York never reigned as King George V because his brother, Edward Duke of Clarence, did not die as anticipated but went on to reign over England as King Victor I. Thus, the present King is his son, Victor II, a medical doctor as well, and the fun begins with a royal household of his wife, Isabella, a Spanish princess, his vegetarian son, Albert, Prince of Wales, his daughter, Princess Louise, Nonny, his wife’s secretary (ahem), Miss Durdon, the elderly and quite-near-to-death nanny, faithful servants, some rogues, and many surprises.The novel reflects all that we remember, somewhat nostalgically perhaps, of England’s social classes, adherence to appearance and standards, that old world of the 20th century and before. Yet, England is now in the throes of economic crisis, and Victor II is sensitive to that while maintaining the rituals and traditions expected of his title for the GBP (Great British Public.) While entertaining heads of state, he is still looking for ways that the Royal Family could economize.This is a unique family adhering to expectations, and Louise, our thirteen year old narrator, articulates, “ ‘Among ourselves’ you could say and do what you liked, a set of relationships that you just knew…Things that if you’d done them elsewhere would have been ‘over the line.’ When you weren’t among yourselves, you were always to a greater or lesser extent ‘putting on a show, wearing your public face.’”Over the course of the novel Louise discovers family truths and secrets with the help of Durdy or Miss Durdon, the Nanny who has been part of this family, caring for its babies, since the late 1800’s. The beloved Durdy, whom Louise and her father visit frequently throughout the day out of true love and devotion, moves between clarity and a dream state. Her reminiscences reveal much of her own and the family’s history to the reader.What begin as pranks, perhaps a reaction to the layoffs predicted within the Palace due to the economy, turn quickly to practical jokes and then to far more sinister actions, including murder. As the actions become more ominous, more threatening, Louise and her father believe they are tied somehow to the family secret, which stretches the boundaries of royal life, the extent of which Louise has only recently been told.If the secret weren’t enough, the parallel struggle for Louise is her wish to remain ordinary, to preserve her sense of self and not allow the work of “princessing” to consume her life, to not become a “princessing machine” despite her recognition of duty and obligation.The discerning reader will take note of the clues Dickenson provides throughout the novel; a word or phrase here and there caught my attention enough to pull together a theory, but the ending took me by surprise, more unforgiving than I expected.

Do You like book King And Joker (1993)?

Gosh, what a great book. An Alternate History, in which the line of British royal succession was shuffled. But there is so much more! A delicious range of secrets, some dating back to the Edwardian age, a current crime, interesting murders. And, best of all, a peek into the family life of a British royal family. Peter Dickinson wears many different author hats, which gives him great power and conviction. The SF experience gives him authority with the alternate history; his many mystery novels make the crimes and solutions solid, and his YA track record make the young Princess Louise sound psychologically credible.And, there is a sequel! Titled SKELETON-IN-WAITING. The most awful and unpleasant thing about this little duo of novels is that there are no more than two books. This is the book I instantly returned to in August 1997 when Diana, princess of Wales, died in that car crash. I needed to get involved in British royals with different, solveable problems. At the time I thought about emailing Dickinson and urging him to comfort us by writing more, many many more books in the series, and I didn't. Now I fear it is too late.
—Brenda Clough

BOTTOM LINE: #1 of 2, Princess Louise, Buckingham Palace, London; cosy amateur sleuth, alternate history/monarchy. Charming 13-yo Princess Louise narrates this tale of practical jokes that lead to murder, set in a British Monarchy that never was. Dickinson’s admiration for The Royals shines through, but there are occasional sharp jabs at the real Royals, especially the then young Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Gentle humour, deliciously sly, and a good plot too. Recommended.The plotting is very good, the pacing excellent, and everything gets mixed up beautifully: Royal succession, threats and secrets kept for decades, all woven into the tale of the extremely elderly governess who lies dying in The Royal Nursery. As the practical jokes escalate, her memories flesh out the story and keep it from being entirely spoof-y. HRH Louise is a delight, as she grows up from smart child to intelligent young woman in the space of a few months.

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