Monday, October 25, 2010

The Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries by Carrie Bebris

In honor of Halloween, one of my favorite holidays, I have been saving up reviews of novels involving the supernatural, monsters, and murder for this week. Most will be books I have recently read for the first time, but I thought I would begin by providing an overview of Carrie Bebris' novels, which I recently reread with my husband. These stories are, for all intensive purposes, Pride and Prejudice sequels, but each focuses on characters from a different Austen novel, and all thrust Darcy and Elizabeth into bizarre predicaments involving murder and, frequently, supernatural occurrences. It took me a while to embrace the series, a bit put off at first with the mystical elements (which are particularly prevalent in the earlier novels), but the fascinating manner in which Ms. Bebris' uses the differences in Darcy and Elizabeth's personalities to create an effective crime solving duo got me hooked. Essentially, Darcy is the supremely rational, fact focused member of the team, using deduction in a Holmesian fashion to solve the crime, while Elizabeth relies on instinct and intuition, allowing her to consider possibilities Darcy is very uncomfortable entertaining. The characterizations work extremely well, creating tales that will captivate not only the Austen devotee, but also fans of the detective genre.

The first book is entitled Pride and Prescience (Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged), and it is the only one focused solely on the cast of Pride and Prejudice. The action begins at the Darcy's wedding breakfast, when Caroline Bingley announces her engagement to the charming and wealthy Mr. Parrish, an American from Louisiana. They are quickly married in a lavish London ceremony, but things begin to appear odd when the Darcys spot Caroline from their carriage, the very night of her wedding, walking through a most unsavory area of London clutching a bulging reticule. Her behavior becomes more and more bizarre, and her family begins to fear for her sanity. Soon other strange accidents begin to befall the members of the Bingley family in the form of a suspicious carriage accident and a potentially devastating fire at Netherfield. It is up to Darcy and Elizabeth to figure out what has brought such unrest to the Bingley family, not knowing the danger they face in the process.

The second book, Suspense and Sensibility (Or, First Impressions Revisited), places Kitty Bennet at the focus of the action. Invited to London to share a season with Georgiana, she attracts the attention of one Harry Dashwood, the young heir of Norland familiar to us from Sense and Sensibility. Despite the mercenary values thrust upon the man by his avaricious parents, Harry falls in love with dowerless Kitty, defying his mother by asking her to marry him. The Darcy's are thrilled with the match until Henry's behavior abruptly alters for the worse. Debauchery, crudeness, and a strange obsession with a deceased ancestor threaten the engagement, but there is far more to Henry's alteration than meets the eye.

North by Northanger (Or, The Shades of Pemberley) is the third book, which begins with a mystery surrounding Anne Darcy, Fitzwilliam's long deceased mother, and an invitation to Northanger Abbey from Captain Tilney, whom the Darcys have never met. The excuse for the visit is the existence of a friendship between Darcy's mother and the late Mrs. Tilney, but when they arrive at an almost deserted house, populated by only one, unprofessional servant (ostensibly the housekeeper) and an eccentric Captain, bandaged beyond all recognition, the Darcys question their host's motivations. Departing the very next morning, they are detained in a nearby town and accused of stealing a diamond necklace from the Abbey. With his reputation and freedom on the line, Darcy must uncover the many mysteries the visit to the Abbey revealed and, to his great chagrin, is forced to do so under the constant supervision of the imperious Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

The next book, The Matters at Mansfield (Or. The Crawford Affair), focuses on Lady Catherine's attempt to marry her daughter to an unsavory future viscount. Though timid, Anne finds a secret ally who helps her to escape the match by running off to Gretna Green. Colonel Fitzwilliam and Darcy rush to the border to stop the marriage but arrive too late, their cousin having already tied the knot with none other than the notorious Henry Crawford. Returning home as a single party, they are detained in Mansfield, of all places, when Anne's twists her ankle. The Bertram family quickly learn of the unwelcome addition to their society, including Maria and Mrs. Norris, who have apparently not yet been banned to their foreign establishment. Chaos ensues, complicated by a series of startling events, including the appearance of a dead body in Mansfield Park.

As the most recent book, The Intrigue at Highbury (Or, Emma's Match) was released since I began this blog, I will direct your attention to the post in which I reviewed it (read it here), instead of providing just a brief introduction. It is my favorite in the series. Generally, Ms. Bebris' work seems to improve with each novel, and I am extremely excited to read the next book, which will most certainly be premised upon Persuasion. Will Anne and Wentworth help Darcy and Elizabeth solve another mystery? Or perhaps the action will focus on the nefarious Mr. Elliot? Whatever Ms. Bebris has in mind, it is sure to be another fun adventure with Mr. and Mrs. Darcy uncovering clues, negotiating difficult relatives, and increasing the strength of their remarkable relationship. Needless to say, I will most certainly be reviewing it here as soon as it becomes available.

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