Monday, September 15, 2008

a surprise mystery recommendation

Normally, I don't like books that take beloved characters on from their original literary home. There are exceptions. I have just started The matters at Mansfield, or, the Crawford Affair by Carrie Bebris, a continuation of the married life of Elizabeth and her beloved Darcy (who in my mind looks exactly like Colin Firth). The Darcys have a rich and varied social life, paying extended visits to friends and relatives all over England (the custom in the early 1800s--can you imagine having 10 or more friends descend on your home for se'nnight or a fortnight? Worse yet, imagine being a servant in that house.) Wherever they go, murder follows (I ask myself, "Why would anyone want to invite company into their home when death is sure to follow?"). Elizabeth is the prime crimesolver but Darcy is always there to support her and do the legwork.

Ms. Bebris has each chapter start with a quote from one of Jane Austen's books, used to set one's expectations for what is to come. Her characters are a combination of well-known and well-loved character from Miss Austen's books and characters from her own imagination. The odious Lady Catherine de Bourgh is prominently featured in The Matters at Mansfield and she is just as obnoxious in this incarnation.

I'm not a huge fan of mysteries (I really love the chase but am very rarely satisfied with the solution, often asking, "Is that all I get?") but these are great fun since they include so much period detail and a wonderful use of language. And spending more time with the handsome Darcy is a very welcome diversion.

The other titles in the series (all variations on an actual Austen title) are: Pride and Prescience, or, a truth universally acknowledged; Suspense and Sensibility, or , First impressions, revisited; and North by Northanger, or, the shades of Pemberley.

As the old Alka Seltzer commercials said, "Try it, you'll like it."

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