Monday, June 10, 2019

Pride, Prejudice and Poison (A Jane Austen Society Mystery #1)

Author:  Elizabeth Blake
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN :  9781683315742
Crooked Lane Books
336 Pages
$26.99; $12.99 Amazon
August 13, 2019

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Erin Coleridge's used book store in Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire, England is a meeting place for the villagers and, in particular, for the local Jane Austen Society.  At the Society's monthly meeting, matters come to a head between the old guard and its young turks.  After the meeting breaks for tea, persuasion gives way to murder - with extreme prejudice - when president Sylvia Pemberthy falls dead to the floor.  Poisoned?  Presumably...but by whom?  And was Sylvia the only target?

Handsome - but shy - Detective Inspector Peter Hadley and charismatic Sergeant Rashid Harral arrive at the scene.  The long suspect list includes Sylvia's lover Kurt Becker and his tightly wound wife Suzanne.  Or, perhaps. the killer was Sylvia's own cuckolded husband, Jerome.  Among the many society members who may have had her in their sights is dashing Jonathan Alder, who was heard having a royal battle of words with the late president the night before.

Then, when Jonathan Alder narrowly avoids becoming the next victim, Farnsworth (the town's "cat lady") persuades a seriously time-crunched Erin to help DI Hadley.  But the killer is more devious than anyone imagines.

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Erin Coleridge owns a used book store in Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire, England.  Her social life is pretty much centered around the members of the Jane Austen Society.  This evening there is a particularly contentious meeting causing arguments between the president, Sylvia Pemberthy, and some of the more vocal members.

But no one expects that at the next meeting Sylvia will fall ill and die - poisoned - and that one of the members will be suspected of the murder.  When the police have Erin's best friend Farnsworth in their sights, she promises to investigate and find the killer.  Even though she's warned away, it's not enough to keep her from searching.  But will she find the killer or will the killer find her first?

This book started out well enough - a group of people who come together through their love of Jane Austen, but it got rather confusing almost immediately.  From the description of Sylvia (which wasn't much) I supposed that such a harridan would be elderly; imagine my surprise when I discovered that she wasn't old at all.

Then there's Erin, who's strange, to say the least.  She wears thick black glasses (only sometimes, so her eyes can't be that bad), which got me wondering why, if she's comfortably set enough to open her bookstore when she feels like it, she hasn't gotten a pair of attractive glasses or contact lenses?  Who on earth would willingly wear thick black glasses if they were given other options?  And in these days, there are plenty of other options.  She pretty much dresses dowdy - yoga pants (!) and pulls her hair up in a mess on her head.  Must be fun combing all the knots out at night.  Yes, I'm being harsh, but really, there's no excuse for laziness, and that's all it is.  I began to wonder if she was the only young woman in the village, since men were attracted to her - yoga pants, messy hair, black glasses, no makeup.  She doesn't even have any friends her own age.  All I was seeing was someone who was too lazy to look their best when they left the house.  Sadly, she will never be a favorite character of mine.

I also got tired of people constantly quoting Jane Austen.  I get that the book is the Jane Austen Society, but I imagined it would be a group of people trying to solve a murder, not people who strive to 'out-quote-Austen' each other.  It got tedious after awhile, and I began to wonder if they were home re-reading all six of her novels, trying to find quotes no one else had said yet, and underlining those they'd already used.  Eventually they'll run of lines to quote to each other.  (Yes, I love Jane Austen, but this was starting to get on my nerves).

Then, Erin supposedly likes DI Hadley but kisses Jonathan in a public setting.  Say what?  Was that supposed to put him at ease?  Please, please don't give us a love triangle.  I've said it many times before:  I absolutely abhor them.

I guess the big thing is I never got invested in any of the characters - Erin is lazy, not taking the time to make herself look decent and only opening her store when she's bored; she wasn't even online selling books, so I can't imagine how she makes a living.  DI Hadley seemed nice enough, but there was no (very little) background, so how old is he?  How long has he been an officer?  We didn't even find out his hair color until later in the book.  From his initial description at the hotel, I thought he also was an older man.  Physical descriptions should be one of the first things given in a book, and there were very few.  Plenty on how people dressed, but few on their physicality.

The mystery itself was fine, and Erin is another one of those amateur sleuths who just walks up to people and questions them about the murder, not even trying to be inconspicuous about it.  It was only a matter of time before someone tried to kill her. 

In the end, I felt as if there were more to be written - the book felt unfinished to me.  The murder was solved and everything was tied up nicely, but it just felt...off.  Like there should have been a continuation of the last few pages that never came.  I will say that the ending really makes the book.  And because of this, I wasn't enthralled with this one.  While I may or may not continue with this series, it will certainly depend on whether I feel that it has any great potential.

https://www.amazon.com/Pride-Prejudice-Poison-Society-Mystery/dp/168331574X/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2853468667

More on Elizabeth Blake's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/elizabeth-blake/

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