If there’s one thing to be said about Mr. Kaggsy, it’s that he does know how to hunt me out obscure and entertaining books! 😀 I featured this particular volume in my birthday/Christmas round-up, and it’s a title and an author who are both new to me – “The Day they Kidnapped Queen Victoria” by H.K. Fleming.

The author himself seems completely obscure; the blurb in the book says he was born in the UK in 1901, emigrated to the USA and had experience in the American Government and newspaper world. However, a quick look online reveals absolutely nothing more, and the only evidence of any works by the man is the appearance of second-hand copies of this one plus one other title! This seems to suggest a less than illustrious writing career!! Nevertheless – onward and upward with the book itself.

First published in 1969, “The Day They Kidnapped Queen Victoria” travels back in time to the reign of the monarch in question; the widowed Victoria has been staying at her beloved Balmoral and is preparing to travel to Ayrshire to unveil yet another statue of her late husband, Prince Albert. Her errant son, Prince Edward (known to all and sundry as Bertie) is being dragged along rather unwillingly to take part; it’s quite clear that Victoria is less than happy about his wayward behaviour and dodgy contacts. However, as her train steams away, it’s discovered that the telegraph wires have been cut and that a plot is afoot. Enter a group of Fenian revolutionaries… They’ve soon hijacked and taken control of the train, with Victoria inside it; and things get worse when a truckload of explosive is installed alongside the queen’s carriage. Will the combined powers of Alfred Lord Tennyson, John Brown, Benjamin Disraeli, the eccentric cleric Charles Anderson and the might of the British forces be a match for the wily and fanatical revolutionaries? And where does a rather colourful character called ‘Skittles’ Walters fit in?

The concept of the book is intriguing, and it must be one of the earliest examples of the use of real historical characters in fiction; something which is quite common nowadays. And Fleming manages to create a very authentic atmosphere, with lots of humour and excitement; Victoria is portrayed as quite a tough character with hidden resources; and Skittles is great fun. The plot rattles along nicely with several moments of tension (although I suppose the modern reader is a little hampered by the knowledge that Victoria didn’t die in an exploding train, so some suspension of disbelief is necessary). The denouement is satisfying, if perhaps a little sudden and underplayed, but cleverly done by the various forces involved! Fleming writes well and the book was an enjoyable piece of escapism.

MediaJet (A Photograph of a Photographic Portrait,captured by me sometime in 2009), CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

However, I have to be honest and say I have a couple of reservations. First off, I know little about the Fenian movement, so can’t comment on how the revolutionaries are portrayed here. But bearing in mind how badly Ireland has been treated over the decades by England I might well find myself sympathising with the Fenians rather than the Victorians… (although I should say that I’m not a fan of violence.)

My other reservation is from a reader’s point of view. The book ends in quite a satisfactory manner; however, the author felt it necessary to put in a final paragraph which is totally unecessary and might well be considered to spoil the story completely! There are few reviews of this book online, but those I’ve seen have felt exactly the same – so I whilst I can recommend this as a fun and escapist read, I would say you might not want to read that last part! Kudos, however, to Mr. Kaggsy for finding me such an obscure and interesting book; but I do wish Fleming had had an editor to advise him about the ending!!!