Love and Death Among the Cheetahs

Love and Death Among the Cheetahs

by Rhys Bowen

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Georgie and Darcy are finally on their honeymoon in Kenya's Happy Valley, but murder crashes the party in this all-new installment in the New York Times bestselling series.

I was so excited when Darcy announced out of the blue that we were flying to Kenya for our extended honeymoon. Now that we are here, I suspect he has actually been sent to fulfill another secret mission. I am trying very hard not to pick a fight about it, because after all, we are in paradise! Darcy finally confides that there have been robberies in London and Paris. It seems the thief was a member of the aristocracy and may have fled to Kenya. Since we are staying in the Happy Valley—the center of upper-class English life—we are well positioned to hunt for clues and ferret out possible suspects.
Now that I am a sophisticated married woman, I am doing my best to sound like one. But crikey! These aristocrats are a thoroughly loathsome sort enjoying a completely decadent lifestyle filled with wild parties and rampant infidelity. And one of the leading lights in the community, Lord Cheriton, has the nerve to make a play for me. While I am on my honeymoon! Of course, I put an end to that right off.
When he is found bloodied and lifeless along a lonely stretch of road, it appears he fell victim to a lion. But it seems that the Happy Valley community wants to close the case a bit too quickly. Darcy and I soon discover that there is much more than a simple robbery and an animal attack to contend with here in Kenya. Nearly everyone has a motive to want Lord Cheriton dead and some will go to great lengths to silence anyone who asks too many questions. The hunt is on! I just hope I can survive my honeymoon long enough to catch a killer. . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451492869
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/06/2019
Series: Royal Spyness Series , #13
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 2,772
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Rhys Bowen, a New York Times bestselling author, has been nominated for every major award in mystery writing, including the Edgar®, and has won many, including both the Agatha and Anthony awards. She is also the author of the Molly Murphy Mysteries, set in turn-of-the-century New York, and the Constable Evans Mysteries, set in Wales as well as two internationally bestselling stand alone novels. She was born in England and now divides her time between Northern California and Arizona.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

July 31, 1935

On a houseboat, outside Marlow, Bucks

This is my first diary entry as Mrs. Darcy O'Mara. I can hardly believe it. We've been married three whole days now and frankly I haven't found much time for writing in my diary. We seem to have been awfully busy. . . .

"You know what I really fancy right now?" I sat up, almost banging my head on the roof of the small cabin of our houseboat.

I looked down at Darcy, who was lying beside me. Lying naked beside me, actually, but with a sheet draped discreetly over the important bits. It was a hot and muggy afternoon and we had been taking a rest from more strenuous activities (it was, after all, the fourth day of our honeymoon).

Darcy opened his eyes slowly and they flashed with that naughty and sexy look I had always found so irresistible. "Really? Again? Already?"

I slapped his naked shoulder. "No, silly. Not that. What I really fancy right now is a cucumber sandwich."

"But we don't have any cucumber. Or any fresh bread."

"Precisely." I sighed. We had been lent this houseboat on a deserted stretch of the Thames outside Marlow in Buckinghamshire and had escaped here right after the wedding. Darcy's pal who had offered his boat had also stocked it with all kinds of good things-oysters, smoked salmon, runny cheeses, chocolate, peaches and lots of champagne. In short, everything anyone would want after the stress of a wedding that included the king and queen, not to mention the two little princesses as bridesmaids. Amazingly the ceremony had gone off without a hitch. I had not caught my foot in my train and pitched onto my face halfway up the aisle. I had not dropped cake down my front. It had been wonderful, magical, the perfect start to a life of bliss ahead. And the houseboat had been a brilliant idea too. Nobody around for miles. No servants to intrude at awkward moments. Only a couple of cows behind a fence to spy on us. We had eaten, drunk, made love and repeated the aforementioned over and over. We had lain out on the top deck with a glass of champagne in hand and watched the stars. We had even seen shooting stars, which was remarkable so close to London. It had been absolutely perfect.

But now reality was creeping in. We had eaten all the good food. The ice had melted in the icebox. The bread was stale. The chocolate had turned into a brown puddle. And we had no cucumber. This meant a long hike along the canal path to the nearest shop. Which was not particularly inviting, given that we were experiencing a heat wave, or that my maid, Queenie, had packed only my elegant shoes and not my summer sandals. The other alternative meant admitting the first stage of our honeymoon was over and we should return to civilization where cucumber sandwiches, a long soak in a real bathtub and changes of clothes awaited and I could wash my hair. The joys of living in primitive conditions are glorious, but one does miss basic comforts after a while. Also the height of the cabin ceiling and the doorway from the galley had meant several bruises on our heads. Neither of us had wanted to admit it, but we were ready to go home.

Well, not home exactly. I wasn't ready to go back to Eynsleigh-the country house I had sort of inherited-back to life with my mother, my grandfather and Sir Hubert, much as I loved them all. I wasn't too keen to go over to Darcy's castle in Ireland, although it was certainly remote enough. I was not ready to stay with my brother and sister-in-law at Rannoch House in London. Golly-can you imagine Darcy and me trying to have interesting sexual encounters knowing that my sister-in-law, Fig, was listening? Probably trying to peek through the keyhole? It would inhibit my sexual freedom for life! The same would be true for our friend Zou Zou, the Princess Zamanska, in whose elegant London home we were always welcome. She wouldn't mind what we got up to in bed. She'd probably even offer suggestions. But none of the above seemed right at the moment. It was our honeymoon. We were supposed to be alone, getting to know each other without outside interference.

Before we married, Darcy had actually promised that he would take care of the honeymoon. "Don't worry. I have it in hand," he had said. Somewhere wonderful and exotic, he had said. I didn't like to say anything, because I knew he didn't have oodles of money to fly me around the world. But at this moment I was wondering whether these four days on a boat outside London were it-my entire honeymoon. All I had to look forward to. I hadn't even had a chance to wear my new silk knickers!

Darcy was still looking up at me. "So what do you think?" he asked. "Have we had enough of seafaring life?"

I laughed. "You can hardly call a houseboat moored to the bank of the Thames 'seafaring.' But yes, I am finding it a little confining. I'd love a proper bath and not in the river and I really would love a cucumber sandwich."

"So you want to go home?"

"I suppose so. What about you?"

He sighed. "I admit, I have banged my head on that bloody doorway one time too many."

"Are you allowed to swear in my presence now that we're married?" I asked with mock primness.

"Oh absolutely. Abso-bloody-lutely." He laughed and wrestled me down to the bed again. "I have to make sure you don't start turning into your great-grandmother now that you are married."

"But she adored Prince Albert. They had the happiest marriage in creation."

"But she was also not amused by a risquŽ joke," he pointed out. "Although some do say she had a fling with her Scottish chappie, Mr. Brown."

"It was hardly a fling. She was seventy-something, wasn't she?" I started to laugh.

"Anyway." Darcy turned me toward him and stroked back my hair. "You're going to have to put up with me as I am, including my faults, of which occasional swearing is one. And we'll be as happy as Victoria and Albert and have at least nine children."


"You like children, don't you?"

"Yes . . . but nine?"

He laughed and ruffled my hair. "We're going to have a lot of fun, Georgie. Life is going to be an adventure."

"I hope so." I nestled up against his naked chest, feeling safe and secure for the first time in my life. I hadn't really thought about it before but my mother bolted when I was two. My father spent his time in Monte Carlo and eventually killed himself. I was never allowed to see my nonroyal grandfather. I had a kind nanny and then a strict governess but nobody who clearly loved me and cherished me. And now I did. I was wife of the Honorable Darcy O'Mara, heir to Lord Kilhenny of Ireland. I would still retain my own title and be addressed as Lady Georgiana because I was the daughter of a duke. It was all very satisfactory.

I sat up again. "So, talking of adventure, do we have something planned after this? And you'd better not tell me that you've been called away on some kind of hush-hush assignment." (I should mention that my husband doesn't have a proper job but he does seem to be whisked away to strange parts of the globe doing something for the British government. He won't exactly tell me what he does.)

"There won't be any more hush-hush assignments now, Georgie," he said gently. "I told you that they offered me a desk job at the Foreign Office."

"But you don't really want it, do you?" I gave him a worried look.

"It's more fitting for a married man, isn't it? We'll start having children. It's important that their father is at home. It's important for you that I'm there."

"Let's not talk about it now," I said. "Let's not worry about the future, except perhaps where we are going to go when we leave this boat."

"We could go back to Eynsleigh," he said. "It's got lovely grounds. We could maybe persuade your godfather to put in a swimming pool."

"I agree it is lovely, but it also has my mother and grandfather in residence as well as Sir Hubert and the servants. Mummy will surely be barging in on us and we'll have no privacy. Besides, Eynsleigh is where we'll live from now on. It will be going back to real life and I'm not ready for that yet."

"Then what are the alternatives?" he asked. "We could always pop over to Kilhenny Castle. I know my father would like that. Zou Zou might be there too."

"Precisely," I said. "And your crazy aunt and uncle . . . too much family too soon."

"I presume that also means your brother and sister-in-law."

"Certainly not Rannoch House with my darling brother and sister-in-law," I replied, more sharply than I had intended. "I mean, they were jolly nice to host our wedding reception, but I can only take Fig in very small doses."

"We haven't looked at our wedding presents yet," Darcy reminded me. "We should at least put in an appearance and arrange to have them shipped down to Eynsleigh."

"Yes, I suppose we'd better do that. Actually that will be rather fun, won't it? I'm dying to see what we have been given, aren't you?"

"I'd say Eynsleigh is quite well furnished right now," he said. "I can't think what we still need."

"It would be nice to start life with one's own china and silver, wouldn't it?"

He made a face. "I suppose women do think that way. For me, as long as I have a plate to put my food on I don't care if it's Royal Doulton or tin."

"You're awful," I said as he grinned at me.

"Less than four days married and you are calling me awful," he sighed. "I guess the honeymoon really is over."

"Oh golly, I hope not," I said. "I thought we might be going somewhere special."

"You don't consider this special?"

"It was absolutely lovely," I agreed. "Perfect, in fact, but I had hoped for a little longer time on our own. I'm not ready to face Fig and my mother and the world."

"We'll go somewhere else, I promise," he said. "But at this moment . . ."

"You don't have anything else planned, do you?" He could hear the disappointment in my voice. I was about to remind him that he had proclaimed, in front of witnesses, that he had a wonderful honeymoon surprise for me. Was this it? I wondered. I knew I should be grateful. There were plenty of people in this world who worked in factories or were out of work, standing in soup lines with no hope of the sort of life we took for granted. Time to grow up, Georgie, I thought.

"I have a few things that need sorting out first," Darcy said. "You just need to be patient."

I managed a bright smile. "All right," I said. "We'll go and look at our wedding presents at Rannoch House. If we hurry we'll be in time for tea and I know Mrs. McPherson will make cucumber sandwiches."

Chapter 2

July 31

Rannoch House, Belgrave Square, London W.1.

Back to the real world. Sigh. I wish our delicious bubble could have lasted longer. I mustn't show myself to be disappointed that Darcy hasn't managed to wangle a long, exotic honeymoon for us. I'm sure he tried. And I do have the rest of my life to be with him!

"Welcome home, my lady." My brother's elderly butler, Hamilton, beamed at me as I stood at the front door of Rannoch House on Belgrave Square. "I was not informed that you were returning so soon or I'd have had the maids air out your room."

"Hello, Hamilton." I smiled back at him. "You weren't to know. It was an impulsive decision on our part, due to a sudden desire for cucumber sandwiches."

"Indeed? Then let me go and inform Mrs. McPherson immediately that sandwiches are requested and I'll have them brought out to the terrace, where Her Grace is currently awaiting her tea. Would you like me to go through and announce you?"

"I think we can find our own way, thank you. Please go and arrange the sandwiches."

Hamilton nodded to Darcy, who had just joined me after paying the taxicab driver. "Welcome, Mr. O'Mara," he said. "If you leave the bags there, I'll have them taken up for you in a jiffy."

"Thank you, Hamilton," Darcy said. "Good to see you looking so fit."

"It's the fine weather, sir. It works wonders for my rheumatics after Castle Rannoch, which does tend to be just a tad damp and cold." He gave a little nod of a bow before retreating belowstairs. Darcy slipped an arm around my shoulder as we went through the front hallway. "If only we manage to find a butler like Hamilton," he muttered.

"They are in short supply, I'm sure," I whispered back. "They don't make them like that anymore."

We opened the door to the ballroom at the back of the house. The room itself was not often used but it had French doors that opened onto a lovely terrace beyond. That was rarely used too, given the normal English summer weather. But we had held our wedding reception out there and jolly nice it had been too. The French doors were now open to the terrace and someone was sitting in a deck chair. Darcy gave me a little push. "You should probably be the one to let your sister-in-law know we are here."

"Coward," I hissed.

He grinned. "Just following protocol. It wouldn't be right for a mere son of a baron to precede the daughter of a duke onto a terrace."

I stuck my tongue out at him and stepped from the darkness of the ballroom into the blinding sunlight. Fig was reclining in a deck chair, wearing shorts and a halter top of a rather lurid shade of pink, which matched the color of her skin and made her look like a large cooked prawn.

"Hello, Fig," I called cheerily.

She sat up, startled, blinking at me. "Good God, Georgiana. We weren't expecting you so soon. Ah well, don't say I didn't warn you."

"What on earth do you mean?"

"Well, the marriage is obviously over. You've discovered the truth about your husband and his depraved habits. I knew you would. One has heard rumors, you know."

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Love and Death Among the Cheetahs 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Rhys Bowen is my favorite author. I love this series and I hope it's not ending. I felt like I was there on their honeymoon with them and everything was so exciting. It's probably the closest I'll come to being in Africa.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Fascinating story set in Kenya's Happy Valley.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Not having read any other books in "Her Royal Spyness" series, I enjoyed meeting some of the characters. Georgie and Darcy have married and are on their honeymoon. Darcy surprises Georgie with a trip to Kenya, via airplane. She has been asked by the relatives to keep an eye on her cousin David, the future king of England. Darcy may have another reason besides the honeymoon to go to Kenya, but he's not telling. Kenya proves to be another world entirely; while Georgie is thrilled with the wildlife, she is appalled at the depravity of the upper-class Englishmen and women who have made Kenya their home. Following a party at a remote estate, Georgie and Darcy come upon the dead body of a local Englishman, Lord Cheriton, who was not well liked, Nearly everyone in the local community had a motive to kill him. Darcy and Georgie realize they are in danger, but they continue to search for the killer. There are wonderful, lengthy descriptions of the wildlife and the countryside of Kenya, as well as the lifestyles of the English and their relationships with the locals, who are treated as second-class citizens.
dibbylodd 5 months ago
The book offers a glimpse at the lives of British expats who have chosen to live virtually cut off from English society. They have, as a result, created their own world with its unique rules and quirks. Georgie gets to show Darcy just how mentally sharp she is. Many of the usual characters are absent due to the location, but there are many "cameos" by Kenyan locals to make up for it.
Anonymous 5 months ago
3.5 stars Latest in a long series featuring an almost Royal personage and set in 1930s England. Lady Georgiana has finally married her love Darcy. This couple is well-educated, well-bred (Darcy is an Irish aristocrat) but penniless. Darcy has managed to surprise Georgia with an exotic honeymoon to Kenya, conveniently able to conduct some of his secret investigating for the Crown. They wind up in the notorious Happy Valley, where wild parties, drugs, and extramarital romps are the norm. Meanwhile, the Queen has asked Georgie to keep an eye on the Prince of Wales since she is concerned about his lady love, Wallis Warfield-Simpson. On the way home after escaping a party that was decidedly not their cup of tea, they discover the murdered body of one of the more well-known and notorious residents of the valley. Suspects abound as there are irate husbands and jealous wives everywhere. Or was the motive politics? Georgie and Darcy are always fun to spend time with. They were certainly out of their element in this one but still managed to solve the caper. The characters in the Valley are presented in a very unflattering light, but much of this is based on well-documented history, including the superior attitude of the expats toward the natives.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Always have loved this series but the magic wasn't in this one. Too serious. Missed the humor from all the characters. Know we're heading into a war but hope the misadventures that were part of the main characters are not losted on the next book. I think it would be fun to see Darcy handle those along with his investigations.
DragonNimbus 6 months ago
Love and Death Among the Cheetahs is 13th in Rhys Bowen's "Her Royal Spyness" series about Georgie, thirty-fourth in line for the throne, great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and occasional spy for Her Majesty. Georgie has just married her beloved Darcy O'Mara and is leaving for Africa on a surprise honeymoon. The trip involves travel by train, airboat, dubious small planes and finally a rickety government vehicle as Darcy's friend picks them up in . Georgie soon figures out that there is more going on then a relaxing and exotic honeymoon she was promised. Darcy, who dabbles in government intrigue, is on the trail of a jewel thief. In addition, Georgie was asked by the Queen to keep an eye on the Prince of Wales and his "friend" Wallis. And much to Georgie's dismay, she's been hit upon on her first day by the randy Lord Cheriton. Add to this some wild parties involving spouse sharing and cocaine and the honeymoon is anything but typical. Georgie and Darcy, happily wed, leave the party as soon as possible and are dismayed to find their way blocked by Lord Cheriton's vehicle. Further investigation reveals the mauled body of Lord Cheriton in the bushes. Of course it is a murder which must be solved before the party guests travel home. Darcy and Georgie manage to salvage a little honeymoon in the midst of all this and end up being instrumental in solving the murder (not the first time for either of them!). Bowen delivers a well-researched murder mystery that is an all around fun read. The characters are endearing - I've read a few in the series but had no trouble picking this one up and following what was going on. I was a little scandalized at the descriptions of the sex and drug parties that were apparently de regeur for dis-placed society during Victorian times. The inclusion of actual historical characters, including Queen Victoria and her family, adds much to the charm of the story. The rest of the series is right at the top of my "to read" list!
Carstairs38 6 months ago
Lady Georgiana and Darcy have finally wed, and Darcy has a surprise – an extended honeymoon in Kenya. Georgie is excited to get to see local wildlife, but once they arrive, she quickly learns that Darcy is hoping to get some information on a notorious jewel thief that is rumored to be making an appearance in the country soon. The couple are quick to settle into the British colony in the country, but they begin to realize that not everyone is as friendly as they first appear. Then a murder interrupts their trip. Can they figure out what is happening? Those who are fans of Darcy (like me), will be pleased with his presence in this book. As is befitting a honeymoon, he and Georgie are true partners in figuring out what is happening around them. Not that he steals the show from Georgie, who still figures out just about everything along the way. We do get the usual slow start, which allows us a little time to hear from most of the series regulars before heading down to Kenya. And let me say their trip made me very happy for how travel has advanced since the 1930’s. Even when we arrive in Kenya, it takes a bit of time for the murder to take place, but once it does, the mystery is well worth the wait with some great secrets that Georgie and Darcy must bring to light. I did have a hard time keeping all of the British colonists straight, but that never got in the way of following the mystery. My bigger complaint is an event that takes place in the middle of the book that seems force to have Darcy and Georgie where they are needed for the plot. I appreciated how the book worked in the world politics of the time without feeling out of place in the series. And I also appreciated the ability to be an arm chair traveler since I can’t take a vacation this year, although it really made me want to go on a safari of my own.
nfam 6 months ago
Debauchery and Murder in Kenya in the 1930s Darcy promised Georgina a special honeymoon, but she had no idea it might be in Kenya. At first she’s thrilled with the exotic beauty of the place, but as she meets the residents of Happy Valley, she suspects Darcy has been sent on assignment. He tells Georgina that jewel robberies have taken place in London and the authorities suspect someone has escaped to Kenya. She accepts the explanation, but wonders if it’s true. The newly weds, at least Georgina, are shocked by the debauchery in the Happy Valley. Drugs and sex are the main occupations with considerable imbibing of alcohol. One of the ring leaders is Lord Cheriton. He makes a pass a Georgina who puts a stop to that quickly. Then he’s found dead. It’s a lonely stretch of road, and it appears that Lord Cheriton was attacked by an animal. The more Darcy and Georgina learn, the less realistic this seems. This novel is based on a true unsolved crime in Kenya. The historical scene including the debauchery is quite realistic. I enjoyed the background and learning more about Kenya under the British. However, it wasn’t a pleasant story. Aside from Georgina and Darcy, the characters were uniformly unpleasant. The murder plot was interesting, but I felt not enough was done to build up the minor characters so the ending while a surprise seemed rushed. I enjoy this series, but aside from seeing Darcy and Georgina finally married, it was one of my least favorites. I received this book from Net Galley for this review.
Anonymous 6 months ago