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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, June 24, 2007

North by Northanger by Carrie Bebris

North by Northanger: Or, The Shades of Pemberly (A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery) by Carrie Bebris. New York: Forge, 2006. ISBN: 0-765-31410-X

Based on my reaction a little over a year ago to the first “Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery,” Pride and Prescience, I'm frankly surprised that I picked up another in the series. But when I saw it sitting there on the new fiction shelf at my local library, I just couldn't resist. I just had to see what the Darcy's were up to now, in the Carrie Bebris version of the rest of their lives.

There is another volume that came in between these, Suspense and Sensibility, which I suppose I ought to have read next, but I'm not THAT committed to the series, although I do think this book is definitely an improvement over the first one. At least there is no quite so obvious supernatural element, even though right on the very first page we are told that Elizabeth Darcy certain of one thing: “A ghost haunted Pemberly.”

Luckily, it turns out to be merely the still omnipresent influence of Darcy's mother, the late Lady Anne Fitzwilliam Darcy. She is a major player in this novel, even though almost twenty years dead. The Darcy's find a letter hidden in her old desk, addressed to Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, written by her long-dead mother-in-law, and apparently intended for whoever her son eventually married. The letter leads to the investigation of a missing statue, a talisman to which Lady Anne apparently attached considerable emotional and religious sentiment.

But the title plot I should be discussing involves Northanger Abbey, the title of another famous novel written by Jane Austen, although not published until after her death. Ms. Bebris has her fun in bringing the two stories, otherwise entirely disconnected, together. Only, the Captain Tilney that the two encounter there turns out to be not at all what he seems, and the Darcy's find themselves accused of petty (or not so petty) robbery.

To escape gaol, and all its attendant terrors, publicity, primarily, Mr. Darcy somewhat unwillingly places himself into the custody of his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who acts as safeguard over his whereabouts, to satisfy the arm of the law, and who moves into Pemberly, making Elizabeth's life even more of a trial.

Oh, and Elizabeth is “with child” and another considerable subplot revolves around the disagreement between Darcy and herself over the doctor who shall attend the birth. Darcy wants the latest medical man, a Dr. Severn, whose arrogant attitude, and blatant refusal to listen to any of Elizabeth's concerns, makes him increasingly distasteful to her.

If there is a problem with this book, it is that there is just altogether so very much going on, so many ins and outs, so many story lines up in the air, that it hardly seems possible to keep them all balanced, but the author does a creditable job, and ties up all the loose ends by the close of the tome. While I'm still not completely convinced that these books provide a suitable continuation of the original Pride and Prejudice, I was somewhat more satisfied with this one than the previous one I read. Slightly more than marginally recommended for insatiable P&P fans.

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