Murder at Longbourn, Tracy Kiely, Minotaur Books, $24.99
"At the end was a rambling two-story house. Hanging over the door was a freshly painted white sign. In large green letters it proclaimed, THE INN AT LONGBOURN. I smiled. Aunt Winnie was a dedicated, some might say an obsessed, fan of Pride and Prejudice."
While Tracy Kiely breaks no new ground in her Jane Austen inspired whodunit, she certainly provides an enjoyable and breezy read that had me captivated from her opening paragraph. Her main character, Elizabeth Parker, has gotten dumped by her boyfriend right before New Year's Eve. Rather than spend New Year's with her snarky and irritating sister, Elizabeth opts instead to help out her Aunt Winnie at her new B & B, where she's throwing a "How to Host a Murder" party. As I said, Kiely is not breaking new ground here, but it's still extremely palatable.
Anyone with even a passing interest or knowledge of Pride and Prejudice will know how things turn out for Elizabeth in the romance department when she discovers that her Aunt Winnie's assistant is the haughty, hated Peter McGowan of her childhood. She vows to stay civil. The plot, however, is pretty clever and Kiely manages to have several interesting and suspicious characters more or less believably on hand.
When the most unpleasant man in town is discovered dead at Aunt Winnie's party instead of the fake victim, things take a definitely mysterious turn as all and sundry are forced to stay on at the B & B until the police have solved the case. Elizabeth takes a hand because she fears it's Aunt Winnie the police suspect, and she's determined to clear her name.
The dead man's ties seem to spread far and wide, and not in a good way. Like all detectives before her, Elizabeth keeps uncovering bits of information that she takes to the police and which eventually begin to form a coherent picture. I was actually surprised by the ending, which is very clever, and being an Austen-phile myself, I enjoyed all the references throughout (especially her Aunt Winnie's nasty cat, Lady Catherine).
This is a pleasant and enjoyable cozy with a little bit of Jane Austen thrown in. While Kiely relies somewhat on Austen's overarching romantic structure for her story, the murder plot is all her own, and it makes me think she will have several more entertaining books ahead of her.
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