The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair)
Forge, Sep 2008, $22.95
Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are euphoric over the birth of their first child. However, both are bit stunned when they attend a party, as their mousy cousin Anne de Bourgh shows shocking courage and even stunningly a backbone by standing up to her martinet mother Lady Catherine for the first time at least in public. Catherine plans for her daughter to wed odious Neville Sennex, heir to senile Lord Sennex; instead Anne elopes with Mr. Crawford.
Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam give chase, but arrive at Gretna Green too late to stop the marriage. Instead they escort the couple home only Annie hurts her foot so they stop at Mansfield. However, soon afterward, a horde descends on the village. Annie’s mom with her lawyer wants the marriage annulled. Crawford’s mistress and his second wife claim he cannot marry someone else. As everyone argues over whom is married to who, Crawford’s battered corpse is found; the magistrate proclaims suicide but Elizabeth and Fitz think otherwise and begin investigating.
Although some Jane Austen die-hards might take exception to liberties with characters like Anne (critically needed to put the plot in gear), Carrie Bebris provides a fun lighthearted Regency amateur sleuth tale. The story line is a fast-paced Regency and of course includes Austen tidbits. For the most part fans of Ms. Austen will appreciate Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam starring in their fourth entertaining whodunit (see PRIDE AND PRESCIENCE, NORTH BY NORTHANGER and SUSPENSE AND SENSIBILITY).