Pride, Prejudice, and Peril
Jane Austen Tea Society Mystery #1
By Katie Oliver
Author’s website: katieoliver.com/ko/
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Phaedra Brighton is perfectly content with her life of lecturing college students, gossiping with her best friends, and dreaming of Mr. Darcy. As a young, respected (if somewhat peculiar) English professor, her expertise lies in all things Jane Austen–but she knows that the closest she’ll ever get to being a real-life Elizabeth Bennet is in her dreams.
When Who Wants to Marry Mr. Darcy, a new reality TV show, starts filming at her best friend Charlene’s estate, Phaedra is intrigued. And when the producer asks her to lend her Austenian knowledge as a consultant on the show, she’s over the moon. But on the first day of filming, when Charlene’s new husband is found electrocuted and Charlene herself is accused of the crime, Phaedra comes crashing back to reality.
With murder on the syllabus and her best friend in dire straits, there’s no Mr. Darcy around to help Phaedra–she’ll have to get to the bottom of this mystery herself. (Goodreads)
Pride, Prejudice, and Peril is the series debut mystery by Katie Oliver. It is a somewhat successful mash up of Jane Austen inspired characters and murder.
Professor and Jane Austen expert Phaedra Brighton is busy teaching classes (in Regency period dress) and planning the annual Jane Austen Festival. To add another feather in her cap, she is hired as a historical consultant for a new reality dating television show. The show is filmed at her good friend Charlene’s home. Charlene’s new husband, a former televangelist turned pharmaceutical company CEO, Bill is soon found dead in the bath, and Charlene quickly becomes the prime suspect, As the body count rises, Phaedra does all she can to unmask the real killer.
I confess…I am a fair to middling Jane Austen fan and not a fan at all of reality dating TV so I admit to being hesitant to read Pride, Prejudice, and Peril, but I do adore cozy mysteries so decided to dive in. There are lots of references to Austen’s characters and works (I think I caught most of them), and, really, the TV production has little to do with the actual plot. The story is loosely based on Pride and Prejudice but with murder thrown in, and it is obvious that author Katie Oliver is passionate about Austen. Oliver successfully includes “easter eggs” that Austen fans will enjoy.
Phaedra is meant to be a modern Elizabeth Bennet, but I am not sure she even realizes it. Her mother is definitely Mrs. Bennet made over as she is constantly trying to marry off her daughters. Even Phaedra’s cat is a nod to Austen. But, back to Phaedra. She is obviously knowledgeable and smart, but she does some stupid things…like withhold crucial evidence from the police. She comes across as someone who thinks she is better than and knows more than anyone else. She is sometimes quite judgmental and her investigating skills are lacking. Her brusque interrogation style is counterproductive and off-putting. Honestly, I do not like her very much, but with a few tweaks here and there she could be quite enjoyable.
The first victim Bill Collier is not a nice man, and there are plenty of people who would just as soon see him dead making the suspect pool large. As the story moves along, there are more victims, in addition to an earlier theft that may or may not be related, for Phaedra to work through. Several characters are introduced then dropped, perhaps destined to appear in future books, but left hanging here. The pace is a little uneven, but the book is an easy read. There is a potential love triangle brewing, and I do hope the author resolves it quickly. I guessed the killer’s identity early on but did not figure out the motive until late in the story. The motive is something near and dear to me so that helped my overall opinion of the book.
I liked Pride, Prejudice, and Peril, and with some changes to Phaedra there is a lot of potential for the series going forward. Recommended to Jane Austen fans.