Source: Review copy
Publication: 10 November 2022 from Isis Audio
Narration: Ben Onwukwe
Listening Time: 12 hours and 10 minutes
King Eric is dead. And when the motive is succession, murder is a family affair…
During a violent snowstorm, the Royal Family gather at the Castle for a traditional Christmas together. Amid rumours that he plans to name a new successor, King Eric stands to make his traditional after-dinner speech. He sips from a glass of his favourite whisky- and drops dead.
The king has been poisoned, and only one of the royals could have done the deed. Trapped by the raging blizzard, it is up to Eric’s beloved head chef, Jonathan Alleyne, to play detective and get to the bottom of this heinous crime.
Jon is determined to expose the truth, even if it puts him in grave danger, and threatens to shake the entire monarchy to its core…
Chris McGeorge’s A Murder at the Castle is a typical locked room mystery with added snow. It’s a hugely enjoyable murder mystery with numerous suspects, a host of distinctive characters and a setting to die for (literally).
It is Christmas Day and we are in Balmoral Castle where King Eric and his wife, the Princess Marjory, have sent most of the staff away so that they can have an intimate family Christmas for once. That leaves us in the capable hands of the King’s long-standing chef and trusted aide, Jonathan Alleyne. He is our narrator and from the first I was captivated by his beautiful, rich voice. Ben Onwukwe not only has a beautiful baritone depth to it, but his diction is impeccable. He is the perfect narrator for this tale and it’s fair to say I hung on his every word.
Chris McGeorge’s alternative Royal Family takes its premise by postulating that King Edward VIII did not abdicate and that this family are his direct descendants and therefore our alternative monarchy. With only the chef and the Head of Security, ex-special forces operative Tony Speck, remaining in Balmoral, the family can celebrate what is widely expected to be King Eric’s last Christmas as King. Everyone in the family believes that King Eric is preparing to abdicate and having changed the rules of succession, is now preparing to name his successor.
As the family gather for this Christmas dinner, the snow is falling heavily on the grounds of the Castle, effectively isolating those in the Castle from the outside world and Jon Alleyne is working hard to deliver them a Christmas lunch to remember.
There are some brilliant touches to this story that add laughter and some great twinkling moments to this fabulous murder mystery. Not least of which is the family’s current obsession with the popular television programme, The Monarchy, and the quest to find out who has been leaking stories to the makers of this programme.
As the family gather after lunch for King Eric’s traditional Christmas speech, King Eric falls to the ground, dead. What has caused this and why? As routes to and from the Castle are snowbound, it is to their trusted Chef, Jonathan Alleyne that the family turn, asking him to investigate and find answers.
This is a plump and juicy murder mystery liberally laced with alcohol in which there is a plethora of motives with a suspect matched to each one. It kept me guessing just as much as it kept me entertained.
Verdict: A Murder at the Castle is a fantastic murder mystery to listen to as the cold bites outside and inside you can wrap up warm and listen to Ben Onwukwe’s beautifully modulated tones as the fairy lights twinkle and glisten on the tree. A highly enjoyable tale.
Chris McGeorge has an MA in Creative Writing (Crime / Thriller) from City University London where he wrote his first crime novel Dead Room for this thesis. He constantly told stories from a young age, whether they took the form of comics, short stories or scripts. He is a lover of Golden Age crime, like Christie and Conan Doyle, leading his crime stories to be a mix of the old and the contemporary. He likes weird and wonderful plots, with plenty of intrigue and twists.
Ben Onwukwe is a stage, screen, and radio actor from London. His heritage is Nigerian and Swiss. Ben has appeared in theatre productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Globe Theatre, Almeida, Old Vic, Young Vic, and many regional theatres throughout the UK. After several stints as a radio performer with the BBC radio drama repertory company Ben has found his métier through the medium of audio and oral acting. He has recorded countless audiobooks. Ben has recently specialized in literature from contemporary authors from Nigeria, a rich seam of astonishing work.