Following the birth of their first child, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are looking forward to enjoying life at Pemberley, but family commitments draw them away to Mansfield Park. While there, the Darcys get involved with marriage arrangements, star-crossed lovers, deceit, mistaken identity, and even murder.
The story revolves around elopements, betrothals, bigamy, and murder. The surprise of the book, IMHO, is the elopement of Anne de Burgh with an unknown man after they are apparently introduced on the dance floor. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam race after the "lovers" who are headed to Scotland here they marry without the delay required for the reading of the banns. Some of the action is totally expected while other parts of the adventure are startlingly.
About 1½ years ago I found this series about Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy's adventures after their marriage where they turn into detectives solving problems for themselves and their family members. The series resurrects Elizabeth and Darcy with their personality quirks and devotions to each other.
There is a new installment of this series due out later this year and I will definitely keep an eye out for it. This is a fun series utilizing familiar characters in a different way.
Setting: Mansfield, England and Scotland (that's a hint)
Elizabeth and Darcy are staying with a friend for a big house party. Lady Catherine de Bourgh is also there, obnoxious as ever, and her invalid daughter Anne is there too. Elizabeth takes pity on the girl and conspires to let her have a little fun. But the next morning, Anne is gone, and has left a note saying that she has eloped with her suitor, Mr. Henry Crawford. Yep, the guy from Mansfield Park fame. He's in this book too, and he's run off with another woman.
Most of the cast from Mansfield Park is in this book, as well as the ones from Pride and Prejudice. This is the 4th in the series, and my favorite so far, I think. The first one is called Pride and Prescience, and the first three all have a strong theme of the supernatural about them. That is entirely missing in this book, and it's much better because of it. I never felt that it really fit, but I still managed to enjoy the books. With this one, there was no mystical element to distract from the fun of seeing the characters interact in some rather surprising ways. And yet it was very satisfying.
If you like Jane Austen and enjoy cozy mysteries, I would recommend this series. Normally I would say start at the beginning, but if you want to skip the supernatural part, you could probably start here and be able to catch up without any trouble. I'm rounding up to 4 stars.
Lady Catherine, faced with her daughter's new-found determination to live her own life, summons her solicitor to draw up the marriage settlement to ensure that Anne does not lose her inheritance but before anything can be settled, a woman appears, claiming to recognize Henry Crawford as John Garrick, her husband, who has been missing for 2 years. If that wasn't bad enough, Mr Rushworth and his mother also appear at the inn to threaten Henry, and Maria Rushworth appears to confront Henry Crawford. Poor Henry gets quite the earful in just one day and flees.
But someone is found gruesomely murdered on the grounds of Mansfield Park, and this time, it is Darcy who believes that there is more than meets the eye and works to find the truth.
Fans of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park are treated to conversations with chatty Mrs Norris, spoilt Maria, steady Edmund Bertram, and Mr Thomas Bertram as each character is brought onto the stage in this installment of the series.
This is not as enjoyable as the first 3 in the series. The characters were all rather two-dimensional and it was rather easy to deduce who the murderer was.
Perhaps because I haven't read Mansfield Park recently, or simply because The Matters at Mansfield is more of a traditional whodunit, I found this sequel somewhat lacking. An easy, entertaining and educational read, but missing the originality of the first three mysteries. I know that many readers objected to the magical element in Pride and Prescience, or the supernatural twist to Suspence and Sensibility, but I really enjoyed the blend of magic and mystery. Of course, it could just be that reading too many books in quick succession has once again spoiled the surprise, like a magician revealing his secrets! I also thought there were too many Regency 'infodumps' in this story, from the rules of quadrille to the code duello. Historically interesting, but dramatically cumbersome.
I did enjoy the mystery, full of corpses, clues and dubious identities, and relished the development of Anne de Bourgh's character, but the whole package was rather too formulaic for my liking. Darcy and Elizabeth make a great detective duo, with one hunting for clues and the other confronting suspects, and the introduction of characters from Austen's other novels into what is basically a continuation of Pride and Prejudice is a simple yet effective premise, so I shall definitely be reading The Intrigue at Highbury - and any future mysteries by Carrie Bebris - just not straight away. The best things come to those who wait, after all.
I admit another reason I loved it so much is I have a soft spot for poor Anne de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice. Having Lady Catherine de Bourgh for a mother is a trial indeed, so I quite enjoyed a book that allowed her to get out from under her overbearing mother. Strictly as a mystery this had enough action and twist and turns to have satisfied me even if you changed the names of the characters and cut all the ties to Jane Austen's characters. And the previous books had an element of the supernatural that I never felt really fit Austen--even if they often were rather cleverly interwoven into the mysteries. So I liked the absence of that element to the plot here. Reading these is like spending time with old friends.
Surrounding this predicament though is perhaps a change of character from those of the canon that Austen left us that gets further more difficult to reconcile into the world that Ms Bebris is trying to create. For instance, Colonel Fitzwilliam's father, and once he dies, his elder brother, is the Earl of M----K. Not the name that we find here. And then as we now journey to the environs of the Bertrams, relatively little is made from our knowledge of the Bertrams where we seem to focus nearly extensively on Henry Crawford, the infamous Rake, in this tale.
As we go about Merry Olde Austen England, I would expect that we would see more of each books main characters, but here Fanny Price does not appear at all in the book, though we do see Edmund once or twice. We also see a great deal of Lady Catherine as we did in the previous tale, and I begin to discern that it is Ms Bebris goal to make these the tales of the Darcy's and Lady Catherine more than any other character.
So it goes, and as it does, these are more tales of our canonical characters rather than scene and setting, with a light murder mystery grafted upon it. Perhaps with such twists and tribulations that you may feel there is a little too much protestations, yet all for our heroes, as any Austen tale will, works itself out in the end and we are faced with a concussion that is palatable. So far removed are we from the true Austen storyline that romance is far afield as our viewpoints are that of Darcy and Elizabeth and as we know in these sequels, are wed and happy. That there are others still to be wed, and that dance around this tale, we do not dwell into those lives as we could even as both Darcy and Elizabeth could guide the lovers with their wealth of experience in the matters of romance. That perhaps could have added to the tale giving us an even greater affinity to the true theme of the canon tales.
While the couple of the story do have a path that is not straight but littered with hazards, it is not strewn with the same trouble that any of the couples we have known in Austen's work encountered, nor do we glimpse what those characters think or feel along the way overmuch. So the pleasure here is yet another, different glimpse of an interpretation of how Austen might have added to her own tales. If thinking that the Darcys would find themselves involved in yet another murder, then this is a good read to enjoy.
Looking forward to the next one.
Why I put a hold request in as soon as I know the library has a new Bebris book: it’s a fun romp. This one’s no exception; I read through it rapidly, and I found several characters’ portrayals quite good.
Why I read the library copy rather than buying it: there’s always something that makes me step back and say “wait a minute…”. In this case, it’s a character’s apparent memory loss — it adds nothing to the story other than some artificial pathos. (And frankly, I don’t find the character’s fate consistent with what Austen says in summary.) I find the stories fun, but at the end, I’m dissatisfied.