cover image Royal Whodunnits

Royal Whodunnits

. Carroll & Graf Publishers, $11.95 (434pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-0634-1

Royal blood runs very red, as witnessed by this solid collection of 25 original short stories concerning royal beheadings, disappearances and murders. While most of the selections are fully fanciful, a few deal with historical conundrums. Amy Myers's ""The Happy Man,"" for example, offers an alternative vision of the fate of the two young sons of Edward IV, whom Shakespeare imagined were killed on the orders of Richard III. Among the more clever tales is Susanna Gregory's ""The White Ship Murders,"" in which the Earl of Gloucester unearths the true character of Henry I's only legitimate son while investigating his death in a suspicious shipwreck. The prolific Edward Marston contributes ""Perfect Shadows,"" a superb story about the possible end of deposed 14th-century King Edward II. ""Neither Pity, Love nor Fear"" by Margaret Frazer presents a twist on the death of King Henry VI in the Tower of London. And, in a rare departure from British royalty, Morgan Llywelyn gives the famous case of Russian Princess Anastasia a new solution in her ""Woman in a Wheelchair."" Several tales feature the wily monarchs themselves as detectives: Elizabeth I sleuths along with Walter Raleigh in Robert Franks's ""A Secret Murder,"" as does a youthful Queen Victoria in Stephen Baxter's ""The Modern Cyrano."" Other engaging stories feature detecting by Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare. While not quite royal fare--a few tales are thin or poorly constructed--this book should satisfy most mystery fans' palates. (Apr.)