Sunday, January 10, 2010
Murder at Longbourn
Posted by JaneGS
Murder at Longbourn, by Tracy Kiely, turned out to be everything I had hoped it would be--a cozy mystery with strong tie-ins to P&P but without being an overly serious, self-conscious, joyless retelling of the story. The novel is jam-packed with Austen quotes and references to the various movies and adaptations that constitute Austen Inc.--I particularly enjoyed the Bridget Jones bit--but branches out a bit to include Shakespeare, Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde and other literary wits. I smiled and laughed through the whole book. Definitely a tonic for this miserable weather.
The heroine, Elizabeth Parker, is self-deprecating, laugh-out-loud funny, prejudiced in all the right ways (i.e., her heart is in the right place and her loyalties motivate her), and is a charming combination of Elizabeth-pluckiness and Bridget-haplessness. My favorite line is when she is griping about another character's more ample figure and she says, "My mother kindly describes my build as lithe, but the sad reality is that if I wore my bra backward, I'd probably get more cleaveage from my shoulder blades." She thinks in bons mots and verbally spars with the best of them.
I enjoyed recognizing various P&P characters, some more slyly disguised than others. Mr. Collins is a pompous, toady bore regardless of name and century, Mrs. Bennet's matchmaking single-mindedness shines through like a beacon in the fog, and Lady Catherine is never to be trusted. Apart from the requisite Austen parallels, Kiely has several other fun characters that I couldn't peg to an Austen novel but were Austenesque in their quirky believability--the double-talking sisters who own The Flowered Teapot bakery/tearoom spring to mind.
Finally, I love the premise of a murder mystery set around a Murder Dinner Party. Perfect!
And finally, clocking in at 308 pages, Murder at Longbourn was a quick, satisfying read that got me through one of the coldest weeks we've had in a while.