Murder at Longbourn, by Tracy Kiely – A Review

Murder at Longbourn, by Tracy Kiely (2009)Fall is in the air, and if you are looking for a great new murder mystery novel to cozy up with, Murder at Longbourn by Tracy Kiely is a excellent choice. Cleverly combining a traditional drawing room detective story and a comedy of manners, this surprisingly witty and beguilingly suspenseful whodunit is actually a contemporary chick-lit romance detective story. Whaaat? you say? Yes, that’s right. Just think of Pride and Prejudice meets Ten Little Indians meets Bridget Jones’ Diary and you will get my drift. 

Singleton Elizabeth Parker has just dumped her two-timing boyfriend and accepted an invitation from her eccentric Aunt Winnie to help host a theatrical “Murder Mystery Party” on New Year’s Eve at her new Cape Cod B&B, amusingly named The Inn at Longbourn in honor of Elizabeth and her aunt’s affinity to all things Austen. When Elizabeth arrives and discovers that her aunt has employed her childhood nemesis Peter McGowan to help run the Inn, she is less than pleased at the prospect of meeting him again. Their awkward reunion reminds Elizabeth’s of painful memories as an over-weight, buck toothed ten-year old tormented and locked in a basement with the spiders. Bruised ego throbbing, Elizabeth endeavors to subdue her anger and Bridget Jonesish self-depreciating insecurities by chanting aphorisms: “I will have inner poise. I will not let Peter McGowan get under my skin. I will not allow myself to be locked in a dark basement. I will have a calm and relaxing New Year’s.” Peter on the other hand, is just too broodingly arrogant to believe in inner reproach. 

The New Year’s festivities are going well until the “Murder Mystery” party turns deadly, when one of the guests becomes a body in the library so to speak. The local police suspect everyone in attendance, and especially Elizabeth’s aunt Winnie who has means, motive, and opportunity to do the deed. To clear her aunt as a prime suspect Elizabeth must become an amateur sleuth discovering clues and following leads to uncover the back story of the relationships of the guests. Odious Peter, the last man in the world whom she could ever be prevailed upon to ask for help turns out to be not such a shmuck after all, once Elizabeth moves beyond her prejudices and Peter his pride! Hmm? Sound familiar? 

In the tradition of the popular Stephanie Barron Jane Austen mystery series, Murder at Longbourn is a cleverly crafted mystery infused with endearing characterizations and a satisfying romance. Janeites will be thrilled with all of the Pride and Prejudice lore as they encounter references to shelves in the closet, a snooty cat named Lady Catherine, and a hero and heroine that mirror Austen’s protagonists Lizzy and Darcy. Mystery novel lovers will be enthralled with the large cast of possible suspects, a minefield of clues, and the great red herrings thrown in to keep them guessing until the very end. Unfortunately,  I did have a difficult time keeping track of the multiple characters introduced in the beginning of the book who soon fade away, and much to my disappointment as the pages progressed the story became more reminiscent of Agatha Christie than Jane Austen. Not to worry. These flaws are minor quibbles in comparison to its burgeoning charms.

Once in a great while I have the pleasure of having my bonnet blow off by a new author from left field. Kiely has crafted a winning combination of cozy mystery and Austenesque wit, and I hope that she finds her audience. I am looking forward to solving another murder mystery with Elizabeth Parker when the next book in the series, Murder on the Bride’s Side, arrives next year. Let’s hope her publisher gives it a more attractive cover. 

5 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Murder at Longbourn, by Tracy Kiely
Minotaur Books, New York (2009)
Hardcover (320) pages
ISBN: 978-0312537562

Additional reviews

20 thoughts on “Murder at Longbourn, by Tracy Kiely – A Review

  1. I liked it too, surprisingly so, for I normally don’t like mysteries. The author’s writing style is so fresh and humorous that you are swept into the story before you know it.

    Like

  2. The cover will attract pre-teens or younger who are no doubt into Nancy Drew…but the high rating as made me interested. Can’t wait to give it a read! :)

    I loved Nancy Drew when I was younger too, lol.

    Like

  3. I enjoyed this debut also; I read it in the summer, but it’s perfect for a cozy winter read – thanks for linking to my review.

    I hadn’t given the cover much thought. It’s not exciting, but easily recognizable, if the colors/logo keep showing up in the series.

    Like

  4. Okay, that does it, I am definitely going to read this one. There’s so much Austen-inspired out there, you provide a great service with these review. I’m a big Agatha Christie fan, so this should be fun, and not just P&P retold.

    Like

  5. If your bonnet was blown off, Laurel Ann, I’m all over this! It sounds like such a fun read, and I’m sure I’ll love seeing all the P&P references. I live for things like that! Going on my wishlist immediately! Or, come to think of it, I might already be there from when you previewed it a little while back . . . either way, definitely looking for it soon! :) Great, fun review!

    Like

  6. I’ve had my eye on this one, and your review definitely moved it to the top of the list. I’m so glad it has credibility as a mystery as well as a retelling.

    I actually don’t mind the silhouette idea on the cover, but I guess they could have done better.

    Like

  7. Thanks Laurel Ann – I ordered it right away after reading your and Vic’s reviews – what could be better than a great mystery with Austen overtones! [or is that undertones?]

    As for the cover – I don’t mind it – brings to mind the original silhouettes on the cover of the Nancy Drew mysteries, which indeed gives it a teenage sort of appeal -is that what is disappointing to you?
    Deb

    Like

    • Regreting snarking about the cover – but I thought it just did not match the quality of what was inside. Its style harkens back to the 1930-40’s which I like, but not sure that most buyers will pick up on that subliminally or otherwise. I think I will leave it at that before I bury myself. ;-)

      Like

  8. I saw this a few days ago and thought it looked interesting… now after reading your review I know it will be! I really appreciate the way you talk about Jane inspired books! There are so many that it is hard for me to keep up on my own!

    Like

  9. Pingback: Preview & Excerpt from Murder on the Bride’s Side, by Tracy Kiely « Austenprose

  10. Pingback: Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for August 2010 « Austenprose

  11. Pingback: Murder on the Bride’s Side, by Tracy Kiely – A Review « Austenprose

Comments are closed.