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The Suspicion at Sanditon
(Or, The Disappearance of Lady Denham)
A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery
by Carrie Bebris
TOR Books; $23.99; 334pp
Published: July 2015

This is my first occasion reading a novel by Ms. Bebris based on the Jane Austen characters from Pride and Prejudice, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. (However I have read several other novels set in the world and characters of Pride and Prejudice).

Bebris has written a series of mysteries based on bits and characters from all of Jane Austen’s other novels with the Darcys as amateur sleuths. (So I am not sure where she will go from here as Sanditon was incomplete at the time of Ms. Austen’s death.)

This time, the Darcys have come to Sanditon at the behest of Mr. Darcy’s cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam to see whether or not Sanditon might be a good investment. Sanditon is in the process of being developed as a seaside resort along the lines of Eastbourne in Sussex where Sanditon is also located.

So the Darcys take a trip to the coast, and bring along their friend Charlotte Heywood.

They have only been in the village a very short while when they are invited out to a dinner at Sanditon House by Lady Denham, the grande dame of the area, along with almost a dozen other guests. Surprised but willing (as they don’t know Lady Denham) they accept.

And then all heck breaks loose. In a genteel Jane Austen sort of way.

Lady Denham goes missing: not showing up for her own dinner party.

So, there is drama in this tale, but at a very mild level. Because a big storm hits late in the afternoon/evening, the guests are confined pretty much to the house, after a cursory just-before-the-storm-hits search outside.

And one by one several of the ladies also disappear.

And everyone, including the Darcys is wandering around the house (it’s a dark and stormy night by now) with flickering candles, trying to discover the missing guests and just what the heck is going on.

I completely accept that this is quite in the flavor of Jane Austen’s approach (and some classic old house party mysteries); nevertheless, it got a bit repetitious. Rooms and belongings are riffled, curtains flap in sudden bursts of wind, and there are strange noises and even a few mysterious notes left by persons unknown.

When the explanation of why several people all went missing that evening is presented it seems a bit convoluted. Lady Denham’s will has spurred all the brouhaha and who gets what is, of course, the heart of the matter. Not surprisingly almost all of the guests have an agenda. For me, there were just too many people wandering about just missing meeting up with others or disappearing. Even though Sanditon House is a large place---It felt way too busy and crowded. I wished the plot had been more streamlined.

But as I said, it is very genteel.

For those who want a delicate mystery, this is a nice read, especially when in an Austen mood, served up with scones and tea, if possible. And if it’s raining. And the power goes out… ~~ Sue Martin

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