Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Jeanne Reviews: A Murderous Persuasion by Katie Oliver

Alarmed at the prospect of Aunt Wendy selling her inn, Professor Phaedra Brighton proposes a Jane Austen immersion week as a way of drumming up business.  Phaedra is a Jane Austen enthusiast, to say the least. Not only is she an Austen scholar, but she insists on wearing Regency clothing in her everyday life on the grounds that it helps her students understand life in the era. Menus are set, period appropriate activities are planned—including a country dance and an archery competition—and a murder mystery in which the guests will play a role. There is even a best-selling author of Regency Romances in attendance. 

Unfortunately, by the time the mystery part of the week rolls around, there is already a murder—and more than one mystery.

This second in the Jane Austen Tea Society Mystery series, following Pride, Prejudice, and Peril.  It has a good premise and some solid supporting characters, including a number of interesting suspects.  The plot is well thought out.  However, there were a few things that marred my enjoyment.  One was the number of times a piece of information was repeated: defining a loose pocket, for example, or noting at least twice that the townspeople are used to seeing Phaedra wander around in Regency dress, or pointing out that Professor Mark Selden is British. At least the repeated references should have been farther apart. I have noticed the same thing in other recent cozy mysteries, so this isn’t an anomaly.

There were also a few aspects of the investigation that didn’t hold water for me, such a Phaedra finding a note on the body, removing and reading it, and having the police officer forgive the transgression by saying that at least the note wasn’t overlooked. If the police are incompetent enough not to search a body, then maybe they do need Phaedra’s help.

In the first book, I was charmed by the author’s adapting certain Austen characters for the contemporary mystery. Here they are actually assigned roles of playing various Austen characters instead. A few of the plotlines seemed rushed as well. Most of my quibbles probably could have been taken care of with a bit of editing. And it does help if you are a Jane Austen fan, but I don’t think that would be a requirement.

According to the endpapers, a third book is in the offing, Cyanide and Sensibility, and I do plan to read it.

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