If the recent Summer Olympics have you in the mood for all things British, or if you've always been a bit of an Anglophile, then The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart should be next on your reading list. Set in the modern-day Tower of London, the story centers around Balthazar Jones, a retired warden officer turned Beefeater (or Yeomen Warder of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Member of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary, if you want to be technical).
Like all Beefeaters, Jones and his wife Hebe live in the Tower amidst a hodgepodge of quirky characters. By day he serves as a guard and distracted tour guide; in his off hours he stays busy collecting and cataloging types of English rainfall as he mourns the loss of their only child. But it is Mrs. Cook, the world's oldest tortoise and the Jones' beloved pet, which lands Balthazar his newest post as Keeper of Her Majesty's Royal Menagerie. When the exotic creatures arrive under Jones' watchful eye and with them, droves of annoying tourists, his fellow Yeomen are not amused.
As a fan of off-color British humor like Monty Python and Mr. Bean, I enjoyed the slightly eccentric but altogether harmless Tower residents which include a cross-dressing chaplain who moonlights as an award-winning erotica author, the philandering Ravenmaster, and the poetic ghost of Sir Walter Raleigh, to name a few. It is a light-hearted tale of human drama with dash of history and big helping of whimsy.
If you are looking for intellectual literature, then The Tower is probably not your cup of tea. Instead, fans of cozy mysteries, cheeky Brits and historical fiction will delight in this clever tale.
Recommended by Priscilla Garvin