This was a difficult book for me to read as my first foray into the Jane Austen/Regency mystery genre. Although only 409 pages long, I found the mystery format difficult to embrace. The traditional whodunit format of investigator questioning and answering that I associate with mysteries was not present until the last 50 pages or so of the book. Prior to this, the deaths seemed to be unrelated and left me with many questions about the perpetrator(s) involved and their motives.
Then there was the sex.
Like most Darcy/Elizabeth sequels, the sexual tension that existed in Pride and Prejudice is replaced by the intimate relations between husband and wife. Jeffers spares the reader from a too-detailed description, generalizing and in some cases, taking the event off-stage at the beginning. Later, we become voyeurs watching as their coupling is described in more details by the villain(s)’ perspective.
Anyone reading a book entitled The Phantom of Pemberley should be familiar, if not an ardent admirer, of Pride and Prejudice. So, it came as somewhat of a surprise that Ms. Jeffers chose to include original passages (with some changes to the text) in italics so the reader might re-live pivotal moments in Austen’s book.
There are several sub-plots in this book, notably, the blossoming of Georgiana Darcy under Elizabeth’s wing; an elopement gone awry that thrusts Anne de Bourg out from her mother’s grasp; Lydia Wickham’s irrepressible, unforgivable flirtation with men (and trouble with her husband’s wayward eye); to name a few.
One criticism I have of the book is the lack of characters from Meryton, Kent and Longbourn. Other than Lady Catherine and her daughter, Anne, and Mrs. Jenkinson, we see nothing of the Collinses, or the Bennets, or even the Bingleys. This was a disappointment.
The actual climax of the book has several ‘false endings’ and while the questions you are left with do tidy themselves up, I finished the book feeling less than satisfied. That said, I do not often read mysteries and perhaps it is not my forte.
If any of you readers IS a mystery reader, I invite you to check this book out for yourselves and please, write back and let me know what you thought of it. I’d love to hear other perspectives on this work. Thank you.