Pride, Prejudice and Poison

The Jane Austen Society

Perfect for fans of Laura Levine and Stephanie Barron, Elizabeth Blake’s Jane Austen Society mystery debut is a mirthfully morbid merger of manners and murder.

In this Austen-tatious debut, antiquarian bookstore proprietor Erin Coleridge uses her sense and sensibility to deduce who killed the president of the local Jane Austen Society.

Erin Coleridge’s used bookstore 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 Jarral 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.

"I certainly don't have a fortune. And I'm not in want of a husband."

Cozy mysteries featuring books, booksellers and book clubs earn automatic brownie points. They just go together. Throw in the cat on the cover and it’s even more shiny.

Pride, Prejudice and Poison focuses on a bookstore owner who is part of a large book-club where not everyone gets along. In fact, the president of the society gets murdered. The MC Erin decides to do a little investigating of her own to clear her friend’s name when the police suspect someone too close to home.

These folks are clearly Jane Austen fans since they quote her works throughout the book in random life situations. The small group of friends surrounding the MC are almost eccentric, which is a clever way to keep the story interesting when the girls are just chatting it up and musing about life. While I’m not as big an Austen fan as the characters (or most readers), the characters are well-written and hide small-town secrets.

The book opens on a humorous note - it doesn’t really stick with that but the writing works well and it stays intriguing. A layered cozy mystery. It’s hard to guess the culprit, there's an obvious mislead in the middle and other clues that may either misdirect or (gasp!) point the reader into the right direction.
The book felt a little long for its type and form, though, so I did get impatient with it at times. I also found it unlikely how much the police revealed to Erin during her investigations and how open they were to involving her and her thoughts. Still, a little unrealism is expected with these, particularly since law enforcement usually ends up part of a romance sub-plot.

Disclosure: Thanks to Crooked Lane Books for a copy through NetGalley. The opinions expressed are my own.