Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Royal Letters Mystery by Janet Cowland

I received a copy of The Royal Letters Mystery (Rydings Associates) from the author, Janet Cowlard, earlier today while on a visit to Bethesda, MD.   On the Metro from Bethesda to Gallery Place, changing for the Yellow Line to King Street, where I waited for the Blue Line to Franconia-Springfield (yes, one can change for the Blue Line at Metro Center, but it is a longer ride.)

I nearly missed my stop at Gallery Place because I was so engrossed with this excellent story.

Janet Cowlard is a detective-cum-researcher par excellence.    In the 1980s, her husband purchased an "unpopular lot" of 5 letters for £2.00.  The five handwritten letters were written at some point in the early 1920s by someone who was connected to the British court.  Four of the letters were written to the letter writer's mother, and one letter to her daughter.  The stationary was from Buckingham Palace, York Cottage,  Windsor Castle and Balmoral.

The letters were unsigned.  Each of the five letters referred to other people at court, to the royals themselves, but no real in-your-face clues as to the identity of the letter writer. 
Cowlard began her search with a letter to the Royal Archives (to no avail) in the early 1990s, but due to her own work as a Disability Trainer for Arthritis Care, a British charity, her research to find the identity was put on hold for several years.

The research was painstaking, but Janet, carefully and thoughtfully, peeled away layer by layer, filling in the blanks, identifying the people mentioned in the letters (mostly royals and members of the British aristocracy), and writing a story with a very interesting story with a twist at the end.

Because of that twist,  I am not going to reveal even the name of the letter writer except to say that it was an aristocratic woman with ties to the court.  The twist comes with learning about the letter writer's descendants.

Queen Mary, the Duchess of York, Duchess of Albany, Queen Emma of the Netherlands are among the many clues that lead Janet to finally learning who wrote the letters and her own family connections .. and that little twist at the end.

No, you cannot twist my arm.  I am not going to name the person.  Think of it as a murder mystery with the denouement coming near the end.  When you read the book  -- and you will want to read this book -- you will understand why I refuse to give anything away, except to say that Janet Cowlard is to be commended for the detailed research.  (And being an academic librarian, you know I LOVE good research.)

The Royal Letters Mystery is available from, and from the author's website.   The price of the book is £5.50 (postage extra).   This book is NOT available in bookstores or any other Amazon as the book is sold by the author.

 This book deserves wider exposure because it is a very good read.

The book is illustrated with photographs of the people and places mentioned in the letters and connected to the letter writer. (Thought I was going to name her ... wrong again!)

So if you want to find out who wrote the letters (and the intriguing twist at the end) you will need to order this book and read it yourself.  I refuse to  "fess" up. 

And, when you get the  book, don't turn to the end, and read the final pages.  Start at the beginning, and join Janet on her fascinating journey as she unravels the identities of the letter writer, and those named in the letters.  It's a super trip to be on.  You won't regret a single moment of The Royal Letters Mystery.

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