In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, the famed seawall of Lyme is perilous to the heedless, naïve Miss Louisa Musgrove, whose fall is a critical turning point in the original novel. But in award winning author Carrie Bebris’ new Austen-inspired mystery, The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion), the Cobb is indeed lethal.
Following their last adventure with Mr. & Mrs. Knightley in The Intrigue at Highbury (2010), this sixth installment of the critically acclaimed Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mystery series finds Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, their toddler Lily Anne, as well as Miss Georgiana Darcy on holiday in Lyme. While at the famed seaside village, Mr. Darcy is set to collect the sea chest of his cousin of the Royal Navy, Gerard Fitzwilliam, who was killed in action aboard the Magna Carta three years prior. However, after the Darcys encounter the pregnant Mrs. Clay, who has suffered a serious injury from a fall at the base of the Cobb, their holiday turns topsy-turvy and once again the Darcys find themselves in the middle of peril and mystery. After a horrific delivery, the Darcys must discover which of the dead mother’s amours is the father of this newborn son– a baby, they soon learn whose very being endangers the legacy of one, and the character of the other. Was Mrs. Clay’s fall simply an unfortunate accident, or was she murdered? And why?
Added to this machination, Mr. Darcy uncovers evidence among his cousin’s personal effects, indicating he might also have been murdered. Fortunately, Darcy is aided by none other than the champion of Austen’s Persuasion, Captain Frederick Wentworth, to discover the truth of this young lieutenant’s death. Several unforgettable characters from Persuasion, (Mrs. Smith, Sir Walter Elliot, Mr. Elliot, the Harvilles and Mrs. Frederick Wentworth nee Miss Anne Elliot), not only make appearances but Bebris has artfully carved out larger roles for some. True to form, the Darcys are ever attentive to detail in piecing together the facts and possible witnesses, “As the nurse handed Mrs. Smith her cane, Elizabeth realized herself she might have seen Mrs. Smith once before. There had been a woman on a bench on the Lower Cobb… Elizabeth’s party had been on the upper wall, looking down on from an angle, so the woman’s bonnet had prevented a clear view of her face, and even had it not, Elizabeth had no reason at the time to closely observe her. But the woman had possessed a cane.” p. 106.
Not only do we find the Darcys in company with Persuasion’s familiar faces but also Bebris artfully introduces a handsome young man (or two) to the plot, of which Miss Georgiana later finds she is not all together immune to their charms. “Darcy glanced from the sailor to Georgiana, and saw his sister through the strangers eyes – the eyes of a man. A man who was not her brother, not her protector, but a warm-blooded buck who could not help but respond to the sight of a beautiful woman. Worse—a man turned onshore after months at sea entirely deprived of women’s company.” p. 23 Oh, poor Darcy.
Carrie Bebris strikes all the right tones. Her believable dialogue and relationships in and amongst Austen’s most memorable characters delivers another succinct, clever conspiracy to this award-winning series. Her deft understanding of Regency mores and thorough research of the local history and oddities of Lyme Regis, as well as His Majesty’s Royal Navy make it all the more perfect. Carrie Bebris once again has a hit on her hands—which will keep you guessing whodunit until the very end. I for one think The Deception at Lyme her best work yet!
5 out of 5 Stars
The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion), by Carrie Bebris
Tor Books (2011)
Hardcover (304) pages
Cover image courtesy of Tor Books © 2011; text Christina Boyd © 2011, Austenprose.com