“It is a truth less frequently acknowledged, that a good mother in possession of a single child, must be in want of sleep.”Mr and Mrs Darcy are staying at a friend's country house, in company with their infant daughter, Lily-Anne (query – does anybody know when hyphenating names became usual? It seems too modern to me, but I could well be wrong) and her nursemaid. Also at the party are Lady Catherine and her daughter Miss Anne de Bourgh, and Colonel Fitzwilliam. After spending interminable time settling her daughter Elizabeth goes back to her bedroom, still in the early hours of the morning. She bumps into Anne de Bourgh, fully dressed, who proffers some hasty excuses for her presence out of her bed in the middle of the night, though she needn’t have bothered, due to poor Elizabeth’s sleep deprived state!
“The thought had not so much as entered Elizabeth’s mind, which was primarily occupied with calculating how many hours; sleep she might yet manage to capture if she nodded off immediately upon reaching her pillow.”However, the next day Elizabeth thinks things over, and comes to the conclusion that Anne needs help to break away from Lady Catherine’s control. She raises this with Mr Darcy, who here is shown to have a view of his cousin that I always suspected when reading Pride and Prejudice:
“To Darcy, his cousin was merely a vassal in Lady Catherine’s tightly controlled court. In all the years of their growing up, he had never thought of her as an independent being, and seldom thought of her at all.”Lady Catherine has plans for Anne, however. Now the upstart Mrs Darcy has blighted Lady Catherine’s matrimonial ambitions Lady Catherine must make other plans for her daughter, and this time she is holding out for a titled gentleman, doing her best to manipulate the doddering Lord Sennex into agreeing a match between his son and Anne. However, Anne has been considering whether to break out from her mother’s control, and Elizabeth inadvertently encourages Anne to embark on a very rash course of action involving a gentlemen who can be met in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, the charming Mr Henry Crawford.
Through a series of events including an accidental injury to Anne, many of the party end up stuck in an inn until Anne is enough recovered to be moved. Unfortunately for Mr Crawford, it’s in an area of the country where he is about as popular as smallpox – the inn is close to the environs of Mansfield Park! In relation to the events of Mansfield Park we are just about at the end, although for me the timeline didn’t quite work, as I think Fanny’s marriage wouldn’t have taken place until things were more settled with Maria – here Maria is staying with her Aunt Norris, who is trying to effect a reconciliation with Mr Rushworth.
It was refreshing to see Mr Crawford finally be held to account for some of his wrongdoing, he’s always got away with things in the past. He is fairly unapologetic for his behaviour, which I thought was exactly in accordance with his character, since he’s never tried to behave as he should in preference to behaving as he wants:
“I realize I have acted badly, but if my attempt to explain is going to elicit naught but hostility I must beg leave to postpone further discussion of the matter.”It turns out that Mr Crawford has behaved much worse than at first was thought, and his sins are beginning to catch up with him. Soon there is a dead body to account for, which is followed by other deaths... but who is responsible?
I quite enjoy cosy mysteries, and I enjoyed this one, although since I am no Miss Marple I only worked out part of the plot in advance, and the rest of it I realised not long before all was revealed! I am not sure it is true to say in this case that Mr and Mrs Darcy investigated, instead Mrs Darcy was first exhausted with the demands of her child, and then by the demands of her tiresome aunt by marriage! However, the time that Mr and Mrs Darcy spent together was really delightful, I liked to see their close relationship and to see that Mrs Darcy had lost none of her teasing, saucy speeches! There were some lovely humorous parts, mostly in the dialogue between the Darcys or in their private thoughts, e.g.:
“Darcy shifted in his chair and stole what he hoped was a discreet glimpse at his pocketwatch. Midnight – a mere six minutes since his last covert glance. His suspicions were confirmed.I am so glad I picked this book up, I really enjoyed it, and I’d like to read other books in the series. There are quite a few of them. In order, they are: Pride and Prescience, Suspense and Sensibility, North by Northanger, The Matters at Mansfield, The Intrigue at Highbury and The Deception at Lyme. According to Carrie Bebris’ website she is currently writing one related to Sanditon, which is planned for completion in 2014.
He would die at this card table.”