Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Phantom of Pemberley by Regina Jeffers

Let me start off by stating that Pride And Prejudice is one of my all-time favorite novels.  I love Jane Austen and Elizabeth Bennett is one of the best written female characters I have ever read.  So, I have studiously avoided any novels related to Pride And Prejudice, be it a sequel or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Deluxe Edition (Quirk Classics).  However, I came across The Phantom of Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Murder Mystery as a free Friday download from Barnes & Noble and decided to give it a shot. 

Before you read any further, let me tell you that there will be spoilers in this review.  I usually try to avoid spoilers, but find that when I don't like a book I have to include spoilers to fully describe what it is I don't like about it.  I will, however, clearly mark where the spoilers are in case you want to avoid those remarks and continue on reading.

I've already stated that I did not like this book.  However, my reasons for not liking this book actually surprised me.  I felt no opposition to the way that the characters were treated.  Darcy and Elizabeth are happily married, living at Pemberley with Georgianna.  They are very passionate about each other, truly in love, and are truly partners.  While awaiting a visit from Lydia, they are besieged by a snow storm and upon traveling to town to retrieve her, find that the local inn is overflowing with guests.  As is due his station, Darcy agrees to invite some of the people at the inn to stay at Pemberley until the storm passes and the roads are clear.  Here is where the mystery sets in.  There are hints at underlying relationships between certain characters, including Lydia's husband George Wickham, who is not with her on her journey.   All of them settle into an initially uneasy stay at Pemberley. 

The mystery is what I really didn't like about the story.  It felt too much like someone trying to write Jane Austen in the style of Agatha Christie, but coming up short on the Christie end.  The coincidences revealed in the story are too much for my taste--both of Mrs. Wickham's traveling companions are connected to the family.  Mr. Worth is both an acquaintance of Mr. Darcy and had previously prosecuted her husband for his debts.  Both of these facts are unknown to Mrs. Wickham.  Then, Mrs. Williams, who really isn't Mrs. Williams, is related to the man trying to blackmail Lady Catherine.  It's too much for me.  But, the real kicker is in the identity of the murderer.  I fully suspected that Lydia Wickham was the intended target of the fall down the stairs, and it made sense that her husband would want to kill her while besmirching Darcy's good name.  However, Wickham's multiple personality disorder was far too over the top for me.  I can't believe that Lydia would tell her sister that she was being physically abused by her husband, but not tell her of his clearly mad behavior. 

I was so disappointed when I got to the end of the story.  I really thought that I would like it because the author has written a Darcy and Elizabeth that I enjoyed reading and didn't feel like it was belittling of the original work.  However, the attempt at a Christie-type mystery was too much for me.  I enjoy Agatha Christie as well, but this mystery didn't work like a Christie mystery.  Instead of being left marveling in the skill of a well-written mystery, I was shaking my head in disappointment.

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