This is the first in Bebris’ series of Elizabeth and Darcy mysteries. She is one of a few writers who have been inspired by Austen’s characters, and who have chosen to use them as a detective duo.
To me, Bebris is able to nail the wittiness of Elizabeth, and Darcy’s stoicism. She seems to have fully understood the characters, and by and large they speak and act the same way as Austen originally made them.
This mystery takes place during the first year of their marriage, and actually picks up on their wedding day. We are reintroduced to Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane, Bingley, Georgiana, Kitty, Mr Collins, Charlotte Lucas, Mrs Bennet, Mr Gardiner, Mrs Gardiner, Caroline Bingley, and Mr and Mrs Hurst within the first few pages. They are attending Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane and Bingley’s wedding breakfast, but even then Caroline Bingley is displaying some of her more selfish tendencies.
Bebris has Caroline announcing her engagement during the wedding breakfast, to Mr Parrish. Parrish is a American and a original creation of Bebris’, but fits remarkably well with the more familiar characters, as do the other original creations within the novel.
The main thrust of the story line revolves around Caroline Bingley and her new husband, as they are the ones at the heart of the mystery. Soon after Caroline gets married, she begins to act very strangely, first wandering down Bow Street at midnight, and then things escalate, involving the entire Bingley family.
There are more supernatural elements than maybe Austen purists will be happy with, but the overall mystery zips along very quickly. It is filled with enough clues, that might point the more avid detective fiction fans in the direction of the culprit, but also has the added pleasure of showing Jane and Bingley, and Darcy and Elizabeth interacting after their marriages.
I loved the dialogue between Darcy and Elizabeth, the wit and banter carried over from Austen, and including such lines as ‘I merely thought that someone so desirous of attention, and someone so generous in extending it should be united in conversation’, after Elizabeth has contrived to put Mr Collins and Miss Bingley into close proximity.
There are changes as well, as Elizabeth is revealed to be more interested in the intangible than Darcy, and the two handle weaponry at the end of the novel.
I have read this numerous times, and found it enormously fun to read. It’s close to Austen’s original but it’s not slavish in attempting to ape Austen’s style. Bebris includes her own characters and shows us different sides to Elizabeth and Darcy in particular, without making them unrecognisable to readers familiar with Pride and Prejudice.