I have been reading at a breakneck pace lately and still have M.R.Mathias’ book to review but I simply could not resist writing about the Queen’s Envoy first. This is Lord Daud’s second book – although chronologically it comes before My Barsetshire Diary – and was every bit as good as the first, hence my enthusiasm in writing this review.
Sequels, or in this case prequels, generally suffer from second child syndrome – we know what to expect so the element of surprise is gone. Thankfully Lord Daud has given us a twist to replace that initial element of surprise.And from that twist comes the title ‘Lord Daud’.
In The Queen’s Envoy our seemingly naive and slightly daft protagonist becomes a lord of the realm, having inherited the title from a distant relative. The dust has barely settled from that surprise before he learns that with noblesse comes oblige. Duty to the realm arrives in the person of Lord Bertie, a shadowy mover and shaker of officialdom who asks our hero to undertake a delicate negotiation with the Sultan of Beritana. Our hero agrees – what else can he do in the circumstances? – and heads off to Beritana with deep misgivings about his ability to pull off this coup. At the Saudi airport he is hailed as Lord Daud, a nickname that will stick a la ‘El Aurens’.
I mention Lawrence of Arabia with intent because Lord Daud accomplishes his mission in a style reminiscent of both the great Aurens… and Mr Bean! In later missions Lord Daud adds the mantle of Inspector Maigret and James Bond to his persona but he never loses the delightful naïveté of Mr Bean.
These missions for Queen and Country are very funny but by the end of the book I could not help wondering whether Lord Daud might not be a tad more canny than he appears. This suspicion adds an extra layer of humour to his everyday exploits back in Barsetshire where Lady J is as sharp and delightful as ever and Oscar [the cat] gains a sidekick for a short while.
Speaking of Oscar, one of the most hilarious scenes in the book is when the cat – and his sidekick the kitten – monster Lord Daud in his bed. Think Garfield with Lord Daud as Odie! Priceless.
I honestly do not know how much of Lord Daud’s diaries are based on reality and how much on pure imagination but either way they are fresh, beautifully written and incredibly ‘more-ish’. I can hardly wait to see what he comes up with in book three.