Monday, October 1, 2012

What I Read Last Weekend

What I Read Last Weekend . . .

Murder Most Austen by Tracy Kiey -- Austenesque Mystery

Dedicated Janeite Elizabeth Parker and her great-aunt Winnie are headed to England to the Jane Austen festival in Bath. Lizzie has never been to England and she's dying to walk in the footsteps of her favorite author. Her trip is marred by the man sitting in 4B - Professor Richard Baines, a pompous idiot who believes Jane Austen's novels contain codes that he has unlocked to reveal a world of sex, incest, abortion and murder. He also claims Jane Austen was an atheist and his biggest and newest discovery will shock the Jane Austen community. Ummm... Arriving in England, at first Elizabeth is in heaven! So many Janeites and so much to see and do, if only she can avoid the annoying Mr. Collins type man who keeps following her everywhere. She can even manage to ignore the hostile tensions between the various members of the Baines family. Then Professor Baines turns up dead at the masked ball and someone wearing an Elizabeth Bennet costume did the deed. The police suspect Aunt Winnie's friend Cora who did nothing to veil her hostility towards Richard. Aunt Winnie wants Elizabeth to clear Cora's name. Elizabeth has had experience investigating murders but she isn't sure she wants to do it again and her very own Mr. Darcy, Peter, forbids her to even try. Elizabeth can't help noticing things though and she notices a lot of attention on the Professor's paper. Could someone have killed him to prevent the publication of his shocking theories? Elizabeth stumbles across the clues that will lead to the answer.

This book is for die-hard Janeites and Anglophiles. If you've read every book multiple times, seen every movie/TV adaptation, read updates of Jane Austen novels (do you know what "smug marrieds" are?) and spend every waking moment quoting Jane Austen, her novels or speaking like her (three days hence) this book is for you. This book is also for you if you are a dedicated Anglophile who has seen every BBC/PBS Masterpiece show. I'm embarrassed to say I fit into most of the above categories. However, I have been to and lived in England so I found Elizabeth's exuberant naivety a bit irritating. England is not the world of the BBC or Jane Austen's novels. It's not like stepping into the pages of the novel or the scenes of the movie. There are parts of that world still there but it's so much more! I can sympathize with Elizabeth's excitement to walk in the footsteps of her favorite author, though. I also found her constant quoting of Jane Austen and use of period language really annoying. No one talks like that. Not even I talk like that, at least not in public! I also found her deductive reasoning skills were highly unrealistic at times and at other times, she missed the totally obvious. I also thought she was too harsh on her friend at the end. I had guessed what the friend was about and saw the parallels between her and Jane Austen characters. I don't approve of what that character did but I'd like to think I wouldn't be so hard on them.  I haven't read the previous novels but based on this book alone, I find the heroine annoying and hard to like. I loved Aunt Winnie. She made me laugh out loud in many places. Some of the other characters are really two-dimensional and some bear a strong resemblance to characters in Jane Austen's novels. It's funny to see them running around modern Bath. The plot kept me hooked and I stayed up way too late trying to figure out whodunnit. I suppose someone very clear headed and clever could have figured it out but there were clues withheld from Elizabeth/the reader that made the mystery impossible for me to figure out. I actually found the big reveal a bit lame. The motive didn't seem plausible and it didn't seem to go along with the rest of the plot. Overall though, I enjoyed this story. You have to love a book that begins with "If I had known someone was going to kill the man sitting in 4B three days hence I probably wouldn't have fantasized about doing the deed myself." If you're a Janeite looking for some fun, frivolous reading, then this book is for you.

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