Zaffre has pre-empted a series of books by S J Bennett starring Queen Elizabeth II as a secret amateur detective who solves crimes between royal duties.
Publishing director of the Bonnier Books UK imprint, Ben Willis, scooped UK and Commonwealth rights for five books in the Her Majesty Investigates series in a “major” deal with Charlie Campbell at Kingsford Campbell. First book The Windsor Knot will be published in hardback and e-book in early 2021.
Its synopsis explains: “When a man is found hanged in an apparent suicide in one of Windsor Castle’s guest bedrooms during a ‘Dine and Sleep’ event, the Queen secretly investigates the suspicious death. Set during the run-up to the Queen’s 90th birthday, it combines a rich cast of characters–including cameos from Prince Phillip, David Attenborough, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Obamas–with a witty and brilliantly researched portrait of royal daily life.”
News of the Zaffre acquisition comes after a pre-empt by Mondadori in Italy and a three-book deal at William Morrow, HarperCollins US, following an auction conducted by Grainne Fox at Fletcher & Co, on behalf of Kingsford Campbell. Auctions in France and Russia are still ongoing, while further pre-empts and deals have been confirmed in Spain, Germany and Hungary. Translation rights are being handled by ILA on behalf of Kingsford Campbell.
Willis said: “When I read ‘Miss Marple' meets 'The Crown’ in Charlie’s pitch, I knew Sophia had hit on something unique. But Sophia’s very special book goes way beyond this elevator pitch. Utterly charming, bitingly witty and genuinely informative, there is so much to enjoy in the world Sophia’s built. That combination of real-life events and imagined mystery is a killer combination. After the final page, I wanted nothing more than to return to the Queen’s sleuthing–to Buckingham Palace and Balmoral, and even the Royal Train. There is so much history and intrigue to explore with Sophia, and I can’t wait.”
Bennett’s second book in the series, currently untitled, will be set at Buckingham Palace, while her third will play out at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.
She said: “The inspiration for the series came from a scene in ‘The Crown’ where the Queen misplaces a model soldier on a battlefield map. The woman I know would never do that—she’s an expert in many fields with a fine eye for detail. The perfect detective, in fact. However, like many women, she’s underestimated, and in the Her Majesty Investigates series she relies on a hand-picked younger woman to take her seriously and help her out. This is an interesting moment for writing about the royal family, but the Queen has lived through more interesting times than anyone else alive. I have endless material to work with for many books and I’m thrilled to be working on them with Ben Willis. In Zaffre, I think the series and I have found our home.”
Campbell added: “In the age of the debut novel, I am delighted that Sophia's 11th book has met with such an incredible and immediate response from publishers around the world (as Sophia's Queen says in The Windsor Knot, 'nevertheless, one persisted').”