Zaffre pre-empts Queen Elizabeth II mystery series

Zaffre has pre-empted UK Commonwealth rights for The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett – the first novel in a mystery series which imagines Queen Elizabeth II as a secret amateur detective who solves crimes in-between her royal duties.

Ben Willis, publishing director at Zaffre, pre-empted five books in the Her Majesty Investigates series in a major deal brokered by Charlie Campbell at Kingsford Campbell.

The deal follows a significant pre-empt by Mondadori in Italy. This week [w/c 2nd March] David Highfill at William Morrow, HarperCollins US, struck a major three-book deal in 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 (Salamandra), Germany (Droemer) and Hungary (General Press). More offers are expected imminently in Europe and across the world. Translation rights are being handled by ILA on behalf of Kingsford Campbell.

The Windsor Knot is the first book in the Her Majesty Investigates mystery series. 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.

Author SJ Bennett 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.’

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.

Ben Willis, Publishing Director at Zaffre, 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’.

Charlie Campbell, literary agent at Kingsford Campbell, said: ‘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’). I am so happy that Ben Willis and his colleagues at Zaffre will be publishing this brilliant, warm new series, and it has been a joy to work with Sophia, the crack team at ILA, Emily Hayward Whitlock, and my former colleague at Ed Victor Ltd, Grainne Fox, to share it with international editors and producers’.

Zaffre will publish The Windsor Knot in hardback and eBook, on a date currently to be confirmed.

SJ Bennett photograph copyright KT Bruce