Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Janespotting: Pride and Prescience

I decided to skip ahead to this 2004 continuation of Pride and Prejudice because it's the first in a series—the "Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries"—that visits each of Austen's works. It's one of my last stops before leaving P&P behind and going on to some of her other works. (I could spend six months with variations of the Darcys, there have been so many continuations, but I think I would lose patience after a while.)

So Carrie Bebris's Pride and Prescience (Or, a Truth Universally Acknowledged) is a mystery that opens on the very day of the Darcy and Bingley weddings. Elizabeth is happy to share the spotlight with her beloved sister Jane, but not so happy that Charles Bingley's sister Caroline, once Lizzy's rival for Mr. Darcy's affections, has decided to announce her own engagement during the celebration. Her intended is a wealthy American who seems devoted to her, even to the point of selling his Louisiana plantation and staying in England. The Darcys postpone their journey to Pemberley to attend the wedding, but find their visit extended when the newly wed Caroline Parrish begins behaving erratically. We see Elizabeth put in the unusual situation of feeling sympathy, not irritation, for the formerly snide Caroline, especially after a trip to the Bingley home at Netherfield turns dangerous for the Bingleys, and fatal for one of the extended party.

It falls to Elizabeth and Darcy to discover who committed the murder and what is behind Caroline's change in behavior. This is where the title comes in: Elizabeth has a "feeling" that something sinister, even supernatural, is behind the events, whereas Darcy will only believe what he can see and prove. (It was a very Mulder/Scully kind of vibe, with the male-female roles reversed.) Eventually they work together to solve mystery and bring the evildoers to justice, finally earning a family Christmas together at Pemberley.

So, how did I think the Darcys worked as sleuths? Pretty well. I got involved in the mystery, and figured out the culprit just a little while before the reveal, which is perfect timing for reading a mystery. (I like to feel smart by figuring it out early, but too early means it gets boring. This was just right.) I liked to see the Darcys interact as a married couple; the point of view was mainly Elizabeth's, but Darcy got a couple of his own chapters as well, and both rang true. The only thing I didn't really care for was the supernatural element—not that it existed, but that the story seemed to rely on it pretty heavily. Still, it was a fun read, and very hard to put down. I look forward to seeing what the author does with characters from other Austen books.

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