Preview of Murder Most Austen: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely

Darcy VS Hathaway ???

My faithful readers will know how much I love a good mystery. I follow the Masterpiece Mystery series Inspector Lewis on PBS with a bloody passion, and when I am not reading Austenesque books, I can be found with my nose in a good whodunit. If pressed I will admit with reluctance that Mr. Darcy would win in a throw down against Sargent Hathaway. Now, if it was Henry Tilney vs. Hathaway, well that’s a no brainer.

Some of favorite mystery authors are: Tasha Alexander, Dashiell Hammett, Jacqueline Winspear, Alexander McCall Smith and Georgette Heyer. Top on my mysteries “to be read” list is Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. Highly recommended by Austenesque author Diana Birchall (Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma), it is one of her all-time favorite books no less. How could I have missed it?

Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge 2011Occasionally, authors indulge me and combine my two favorite diversions: mystery and Jane Austen. It is like a left, right punch to my reading sensibilities. I get a bit light headed at the thought of it. I have devoured all eleven Stephanie Barron’s Being A Jane Austen Mystery Series and all six of Carrie Bebris’ Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries as they arrived. Now I am in for a treat. The fourth Elizabeth Parker Mysteries by Tracy Kiely is due out tomorrow, September 4th. I am all anticipation…

Murder Most Austen is set in the historic Georgian-era spa town of Bath, England (deep into Janeite territory) where Elizabeth Parker and her Aunt Winnie (who we were first introduced to in Murder at Longbourn) meet an odious professor who claims that Austen’s texts have hidden sexual subplots (take note Arnie Perlstein) and that Austen’s death was not by natural causes (yes, you too Lindsay Ashford). LOL. Is this art imitating life, or, Kiely’s tongue-in-cheek jab at modern Austen culture? Anyway, the pompous professor is bumped off while wearing his Mr. Darcy costume during a ball. Poetic justice you ask? You be the judge. Here is the publisher’s description:

Murder Most Austen, by Tracy Kiely (2012)A dedicated Anglophile and Janeite, Elizabeth Parker is hoping the trip to the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath will distract her from her lack of a job and her uncertain future with her boyfriend, Peter.

On the plane ride to England, she and Aunt Winnie meet Professor Richard Baines, a self-proclaimed expert on all things Austen. His outlandish claims that within each Austen novel there is a sordid secondary story is second only to his odious theory on the true cause of Austen’s death. When Baines is found stabbed to death in his Mr. Darcy costume during the costume ball, it appears that Baines’s theories have finally pushed one Austen fan too far. But Aunt Winnie’s friend becomes the prime suspect, so Aunt Winnie enlists Elizabeth to find the professor’s real killer. With an ex-wife, a scheming daughter-in-law, and a trophy wife, not to mention a festival’s worth of die-hard Austen fans, there are no shortage of suspects.

This fourth in Tracy Kiely’s charming series is pure delight. If Bath is the number-one Mecca for Jane Austen fans, Murder Most Austen is the perfect read for those who love some laughs and quick wit with their mystery.

Excerpt of Murder Most Austen

CHAPTER 1

There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.” —PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

IF I HAD KNOWN that someone was going to kill the man sitting in 4B three days hence, I probably wouldn’t have fantasized about doing the deed myself.

Probably.

However, as it stood, I didn’t have this knowledge. The only knowledge I did have was that he was a pompous ass and had not stopped talking once in the last two hours.

“Of course, only the truly clever reader can discern that it is beneath Austen’s superficial stories that the real narrative lies. Hidden beneath an attractive veil of Indian muslin, Austen presents a much darker world. It is a sordid world of sex, both heterosexual and homosexual, abortions, and incest. It is in highlighting these darker stories to the less perceptive reader that I have devoted my career,” the man was now saying to his seatmate.

I guessed him to be in his late fifties. He was tall and fair, with those WASPy good looks that lend themselves well to exclusive men’s clubs, the kinds that still exclude women and other dangerous minorities. His theories were so patently absurd that at first I’d found his commentary oddly entertaining. However, as Austen herself observed, of some delights, a little goes a long way.

This was rapidly becoming one of those delights.

From the manner in which the young woman to his right gazed at him with undisguised awe, it was clear that she did not share my desire to duct-tape his mouth shut. Her brown eyes were not rolling back into her head with exasperation; rather, they were practically sparkling with idolization from behind her wire-framed glasses. While both our faces were flushed from his words, the cause for the heightened color on her elfin features stemmed from reverence; the cause of mine was near-boiling irritation.

Read the full excerpt

Watch for Austenprose’s Kimberly Denny-Ryder’s review of Murder Most Austen to be posted here on Wednesday, September 12th.

Read our previous reviews of Tracy Kiely’s Elizabeth Parker Mysteries

Murder Most Austen: A Mystery (Elizabeth Parker Mysteries #4), by Tracy Kiely
Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books (2012)
Hardcover (304) pages
ISBN: 978-1250007421

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose
© Tracy Kiely, Macmillan

The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery, by Regina Jeffers – A Review

The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, by Regina Jeffers (2012)Review by Lisa Galek

In case you’re like me and can never seem to get enough of your favorite Jane Austen characters, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy will have you curled up next to the fires at Pemberley in no time. Just don’t expect to stay too long… for there’s a mystery to be solved!

This book is a sequel to a sequel. It follows the events of not only Pride and Prejudice, but also Regina Jeffers’s other Austen-inspired novel, Christmas at Pemberley. For those of us who haven’t got a chance to check out that volume yet, don’t worry – the author spends time catching us up on all the important details. Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are happy at home at Pemberley, glowing after the birth of their first child, Bennet. Georgiana has also experienced some changes of her own. She has married her cousin, Major General Fitzwilliam (promoted from Colonel after we last left him in Pride and Prejudice). The Major General has been sent off to fight the French shortly after their marriage, leaving Georgiana to get settled at their estate in Scotland. As the novel opens, Georgiana receives an erroneous letter explaining that her husband has been killed during the battle of Waterloo. In her grief, she foolishly flees on horseback out onto the dangerous Scottish moors. When the Darcys receive word that Georgiana has not been heard or seen from in days, they race to Scotland in order to locate their missing sister. Their investigations lead them to Normanna Hall, a ghoulish gothic castle, owned by Domhnall MacBethan and his domineering mother, Dolina. What horrors live inside those terrifying walls? Does the secret to finding Georgiana lie inside the castle? Can the Darcys get to her in time?

The novel also returns us to some of our favorite characters. Mr. and Mrs. Wickham show up and attempt to gain entrance to Pemberley (they are rejected and fists fly). Mary and Kitty have also been married off to respectable young men. Jane and Charles Bingley are happy and thriving with their own family of three adorable little children. Lady Catherine also makes a brief appearance, but sadly, she seems to have received a complete personality makeover during Christmas at Pemberley, so there’s no one to satisfy one’s love for affable condescension.

One of the dangers of writing a sequel to one of the best-loved novels in all of western literature is that the reader may not care for the direction in which you take her cherished characters. I found myself alternately enjoying and being annoyed by the author’s depiction of the people I knew and loved from Pride and Prejudice. I was thrilled that Georgiana married Colonel Fitzwilliam (because that is what I always imagined would happen) and that Elizabeth, too, kept some of her wit and charm. However, I was completely annoyed with the Wickhams, who seemed to act totally out of character. Lydia suddenly had a desire to become a dutiful wife and Wickham had turned into a very violent and angry man. Elizabeth also had a bit of sap added as she repeatedly reassured her husband that if Georgiana were dead “they would know it in their hearts,” and seemed to put a little too much emphasis on her “woman’s intuition.” Mr. Darcy, too, got a bit of a romantic makeover. His constant expressions of love for Elizabeth seemed a bit too over-the-top. Certainly Mr. Darcy loved and valued his wife, but I have a hard time imagining that he would ever put these sentences down on paper:

Please know, my dearest Elizabeth, that each night I will dream of you – the woman I adore. My love for you is more than true, and my feelings are deeper than those three words so easily bandied about among those caught up in passion’s first flush. When you came into my life my world tilted, but it also opened for me for the first time. My life began. You are the music of my soul. Until we are once more in one another’s embrace, I remain your loving husband.

Aside from all this, the basic plot of the book was good. Though Georgiana’s disappearance didn’t come into play until about a third of the way through, once we started to understand more about the predicament she found herself in, I became more drawn into the story and more invested in finding out the fate of the missing girl. The new characters, too – especially the devious MacBethans – were well done and came with fully-formed backstories that added to the suspense and drama. And, I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that this mystery had an intriguing twist that kept me guessing right up until the end.

All in all, an interesting and engaging read. Those who like a good mystery will be pulled in. And if you don’t mind seeing it all play out with your favorite Austen characters, then you’ll enjoy it all the more.

3.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery, by Regina Jeffers
Ulysses Press (2012)
Trade paperback (336) pages
ISBN: 978-1612430454
NOOK: 978-1612430812
Kindle: B007OVTCQ6

Lisa Galek is a professional writer, editor and lover of all things Jane Austen. She lives in the suburbs of Cleveland with her wonderful husband and their two beautiful daughters, Elizabeth and Gwendolyn. When she’s not working or mothering, she enjoys attempting to write her own novels, watching mindless TV shows, and re-reading Pride and Prejudice yet again.

© 2007 – 2012, Lisa Galek, Austenprose

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P. D. James – A Review

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James (2011)I consider it more than a bit perplexing when an author begins their book with an apology. In this case, it is to author Jane Austen for using her characters. Since Death Comes to Pemberley is a sequel to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it is like apologizing for snow being cold. If you are going to write a sequel to a classic of world literature, it is, what it is. Don’t apologize for it. It really puts me off my reading game from the get go.

Okay, I got that off my chest, so now on to more pleasant topics – the fact that the venerable mystery writer P. D. James has taken up her pen inspired by my (and her) favorite author and whipped up a murder mystery for me to devour is delightful. What Janeite in their right mind is not salivating at the thought of an Austen sequel written by such an acclaimed and exalted author? Just the thought of Austen and mystery in one sentence pushes me into the giddy zone. To say that my “wishes and hopes might be fixed” in anticipation is an understatement.

It is six years since the happy day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters in marriage: Jane to Charles Bingley and Elizabeth to Fitzwilliam Darcy. Both sisters and their husbands are at Pemberley, the palatial country estate of the Darcys in Derbyshire, whose grandeur is only equal to the ten thousand a year that it generates for its previously haughty master and decidedly opinionated mistress. Elizabeth has settled in as chatelaine to a large estate and mother to two young sons. Life is orderly and good at Pemberley, as long as one stays out of the haunted woodland.

Darcy’s younger, and still unmarried, sister Georgiana is also in residence being courted by two beaux: her cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, and the young, ambitious, but dishy attorney, Henry Alveston. All have gathered for Lady Anne’s ball, an annual event in honor of Mr. Darcy’s deceased mother’s birthday. Many county families will be in attendance. On the eve of the grand event Mrs. Reynolds the housekeeper and the staff are busy preparing for the large formal gathering while the family dine and later meet in the music room. It is a windy, moonlit night, but Colonel Fitzwilliam takes his leave for his nightly exercise, a ride along the river. Later, many have said their goodnights and departed when Darcy is surprised by the sight of a carriage careening at full speed down the woodland road to Pemberley. The coach abruptly arrives depositing a frantic Lydia Wickham, Elizabeth’s unruly younger sister on the doorstep. She is hysterical, shrieking, “Wickham’s dead. Denny has shot him!”

The Wickhams had been traveling to Pemberley with friend Captain Denny by carriage. Even though Mr. Wickham would never be admitted to Pemberley because of his past indiscretion with Georgiana, Lydia, uninvited, had still planned to crash the party. Wickham and Denny had quarreled while traveling through the woodland, departed from the carriage, and gun shots heard soon after. Off into the haunted woods go the search party of Darcy, Alveston and Col. Fitzwilliam to discover a body in the woodland that Lydia is certain is her husband.

And now the glade was before them. Passing slowly, almost in awe, between two of the slender trunks, they stood as if physically rooted, speechless with horror. Before them, it stark colours a brutal contrast to the muted light, was a tableau of death. No one spoke. They moved slowly forward as one, all three holding their lanterns high; their strong beams, outshining the gentle radiance of the moon, intensified the bright red of the officer’s tunic and the ghastly blood-smeared face and mad glaring eyes turned toward them. p. 65

A murder in the haunted woodland. The investigation begins. The body is removed to Pemberley. Mr. Darcy notifies the local magistrate, Sir Selwyn Hardcastle, who arrives to conduct the inquiries. Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane and Bingley are all distraught by the shocking death. The staff is terrified that the curse of the Darcys continues in the haunted woodland. Lydia is hysterical. Lady Anne’s ball is canceled. The official inquest begins. Why did Colonel Fitzwilliam leave Pemberley to ride in terrible weather so late at night? What is the secret behind the Bidwell family who lives in the woodland cottage where Darcy’s great-grandfather committed suicide? Who, or what, is the shrouded figure who haunts the woodland? What is the motive for murder?

We are happily reunited with many of the characters from the beloved original novel and deposited at Pemberley, quite possibly the pinnacle of the Janeite world. Real comfort food for Austen fans. The first twenty page of the prologue recap the plot and details in Pride and Prejudice. Was this for the benefit of her mystery readers who have not read P&P? If so, the same effect could have been achieved by working it into the narrative in a more creative way. James continues building the mystery slowly by adding in elements of the haunted woodland, the curse, and the ghostly figures reminiscent of a Grimm’s fairytale. The plot ponders along with occasional bits of excitement from that evergreen drama queen, Lydia Wickham, nee Bennet, whose character she hits spot on. Another character who she develops interestingly is Colonel Fitzwilliam. He was the second son of an earl in Pride and Prejudice, and we all know that second sons must make their own way in the world. He chose the army. His life changes drastically, and his personality, when his brother dies and he becomes heir to a grand estate. He courts Georgiana, but don’t look for much romance in this novel. It is a mystery and her romantic triangle is second fiddle to the murder investigation. Darcy and Elizabeth are, well, an old married couple and not as interesting as the proud and prejudiced characters that Jane Austen presented. I missed their witty banter.

For Austen fans this will be an enjoyable (if somewhat ponderous) read if you overlook some of the annoying errors in continuity, and for mystery enthusiasts, James does spin a clever tale with a surprise ending that comes out of nowhere. Combined, the Austen and mystery elements do not play out to their potential. None-the-less, it is still an interesting read that has wrangled its way up the bestseller lists. That is an incredible achievement and great proof that the Austen brand continues to grow.

3.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P. D. James
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2011)
Hardcover (304) pages
ISBN: 978-0307959850

© 2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Winner Announced in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 Giveaway

Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge 2011The Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 has concluded. It was a great year sleuthing with Jane Austen in Stephanie Barron’s classic Regency-era mystery series. 76 participants signed up for the challenge with levels of participation ranging from: Neophyte: 1 – 4 novels, Disciple 5 – 8 novels, Aficionada 9 – 11 novels. The reviews and links have been posted in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery archive viewable here. If you have not delved into this fabulous Jane Austen-inspired mystery series yet, reading through the reviews will be a great resource for you.

Here are all of the novels in the series with links to my reviews:

The year-long reading challenge concluded on December 31, 2011. Participants and commenters on their review posts qualified for the grand giveaway – one signed paperback copy of all eleven novels in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series. Without further ado, the lucky winner is:

Congratulations SUSAN!

To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by January 15, 2012. Shipment to the US and Canadian addresses only.

Many thanks to all who participated in the year-long Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 – and especially to author Stephanie Barron for her insightful posts on her blog that corresponded with my reviews of each of the novels. She also very generously contributed all of the signed copies for the giveaway winners.

It has been a great year of sleuthing through Jane Austen’s world. Thank you Stephanie for your fabulous novels.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway winners announced for Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P. D. James (UK edition 2011)89 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a copy of Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James.

The winners drawn at random are:

  • Ann Dawson who left a comment on November 12, 2011
  • Issy who left a comment on November 13, 2011
  • Downton Fair who left a comment on November 21, 2011

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by November 30, 2011. Shipment internationally.

Thanks to all who left comments, particularly those who were so creative! You really made me laugh. My review of Death Comes to Pemberley will be posted in December. Don’t miss this great new Austen-inspired mystery. Many thanks to Faber & Faber UK for the giveaway copies!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my US readers!

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose