This Week's Book Review - Peril In Paris

Peril In Paris
Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.

Book Review

Another Fine Mess for Georgie

Reviewed by Mark Lardas
November 6, 2022

“Peril In Paris,” by Rhys Bowen, Berkley, 2022, 304 pages, $27.00 (Hardcover), $14.99 (ebook), $17.99 (Audiobook)

Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie O’Mara (nee Rannoch) was born thirty-fourth in line for the British throne. A descendent of Queen Victoria, Georgie (as her friends call her) abandoned her place in the succession to marry the love of her life, Catholic Darcy O’Mara. Her family connection led Queen Mary to use Georgie for sensitive investigations. Her husband has shadowy connections with British intelligence. Both lead Georgie into a series of adventures in 1920s and 1930s Europe.

“Peril In Paris,” by Rhys Bowen, is the sixteenth novel in “The Royal Spyness” series, in which Georgie, a member of the impoverished Rannoch family, holds center stage. She is plucky, intrepid, and naïve. (Her most vehement epithet is “golly.”) She begins the novel pregnant with her first child and bored. Darcy proposes a trip to Paris, before travel becomes impossible.

Darcy has business in Paris. Darcy’s business in Paris is unknown, but is possibly dangerous. Belinda, Georgie’s schoolgirl chum, lives in Paris, working for Coco Chanel as courtier, designing dresses. Belinda has a standing invitation for Georgia to visit her. While Georgie accompanies Darcy to Paris and stays with him the first night, she spends the rest of the trip with Belinda, where it will be presumably safer.

It does not work out that way. A German trade delegation is in Paris with Georgie’s mother in it, complicating Georgie’s life. So is Wallis Simpson, intent on marrying Georgie’s cousin, now Edward VIII. Coco Chanel decides to design a maternity dress for Georgie. Chanel insists Georgie model the dress at Chanel’s fall fashion show. Then an obnoxious American socialite gets murdered at the show’s opening night – and the French police suspect Georgie.

The result is the combination of madcap comedy and serious investigation that characterizes all of these novels. German spies, American expatriates, and British intelligence all enter the mix. Georgie encounters old friends, former fiancés, and prior antagonists. These include aviatrix Princess Zamanska who offers to fly Georgie to England to escape the Sûreté (Georgie refuses, because Rannocks never run), and Wallis Simpson who wants to ingratiate herself with Georgie in pursuit of marrying Edward.

“Peril In Paris” is a delightful read for those familiar with the series and an equally delightful introduction to those who have never previously encountered Georgie’s adventures. It is a marvelous mix of between-wars European manners, political intrigue, adventure and comedy, fun to read and easy to enjoy.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is


I picked up the Kindle edition of this book right after reading this review, but didn’t get around to reading until last week, finishing a couple of days ago. Having read everything written by Agatha Christie and and Dorothy L. Sayers, I am a fan of the classic British mystery, so I figured this would be right up my alley.

Well, it was, “Up to a point, Lord Copper”. If you come to this genre of fiction looking for the ambiance of the inter-war period, the manners and foibles of aristocrats and bohemians in Paris, the elegance of high fashion in the age of Coco Chanel, intrigue during the short reign of Edward VIII (entirely within 1936), rubbing elbows with the likes of Wallis Simpson and Ernest Hemingway, and the growing unease at events in Germany where Hitler was consolidating his power, you’ll find plenty of that here.

The actual mystery doesn’t get underway until chapter 16 of 35, and events play out very slowly thereafter. This isn’t one of those whodunits that has a long list of suspects to sort through, but rather one in which nobody seems to have any plausible motive, and the heroine-sleuth finds herself a prime suspect of the imperious French police.

The reveal comes all at once near the very end, but almost accidentally, not as the result of investigation and reasoning. And, to me, there was a disappointing lapse of fact checking which Agatha Christie would never have committed. Since I can’t talk about it without spoiling the ending, I’ll hide the whole thing in a spoiler block, phrased as generically as I can. Click to reveal the text.

The murder is committed by poisoning with cyanide, to which the perpetrator obtained due to having access to a photographic darkroom where “Cyanide was used in the development of photographs” (chapter 33). But it isn’t, or more precisely, potassium cyanide has not been used in photography since the wet collodion plate process, which became obsolete during the 1870s and nobody used by 1936. By then, sodium and potassium cyanide were not used at all in photography and any purchase of them would be recorded in the “poisons book” at the point of sale. Some photographers use potassium ferricyanide to tone black and white prints, but that compound has low toxicity and is mostly an eye and skin irritant. Its lethal dose (LD50) is almost three grams per kilogram of body mass, so it would not serve as a poison in the manner used in the story. Agatha Christie, who dispatched fully half of the victims in her novels with a variety of poisons, would never have made such a goof.