Carol’s Comments by Carol Rusinek

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         Hello, Everyone! Welcome to another issue of Carol’s Comments. I am a volunteer at the River Park Branch. After reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for SJCPL’s One Book, One Michiana, the mystery really piqued my interest in this genre that I read an eclectic assortment of nontraditional mysteries over the past couple months.

  The first book I selected was Death Comes to Pemberly by noted British mystery writer P.D. James. This wildly popular bestseller is an imaginative sequel to Pride and Prejudice by blending Jane Austen’s beloved characters into a murder mystery.

Set in 1803, six years after Elizabeth Bennet’s  and Darcy’s marriage, the couple’s serene and happy life is threatened when Elizabeth’s sister Lydia arrives at Pemberly uninvited one dark October night and hysterically proclaims that her husband George Wickham has been murdered. After thoroughly searching the estate, Darcy and his companions discover Wickham standing over Captain Denny’s lifeless body screaming that he has killed his only friend.

Despite his bitter animosity toward his former childhood friend, Darcy is convinced that Wickham did not murder Captain Denny. To save his family from scandal, he desperately tries to find evidence proving Wickham’s innocence.

Written in a 19th century writing style that doesn’t mimic Austen’s original work, James’ book greatly respects Pride and Prejudice’s characters by skillfully placing them in realistic situations. Readers unfamiliar with the original novel as well as Jane Austen and mystery devotees alike will enjoy this engrossing story because James provides a synopsis of Pride and Prejudice’s characters and plot in the mystery’s prologue. Furthermore, she also cleverly integrates characters from other Jane Austen novels into the book’s storyline. Ultimately, Death Comes to Pemberly is a fitting tribute to Austen’s classic masterpiece. I highly recommend it.

After finishing Death Comes to Pemberly, I realized how much missed spending time with Mr. Darcy and the Bennet family. So soon afterward, I watched my favorite version of Pride and Prejudice, the definitive 1995 screen adaptation starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

This memorable film faithfully describes the entire novel in six hours. All the characters are so captivating they seem to spring to life onscreen. In particular, Colin Firth’s performance as Darcy is so realistic and compelling that no other actor’s portrayal of this role can compare to his. He IS Darcy. This marvelous miniseries is the essential choice for Colin Firth and Jane Austen fans. Interestingly, Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle reunite 15 years later in The King’s Speech. While he stars as King George VI, she plays Myrtle Logue, Lionel Logue’s wife.

After being absolutely enthralled by the world of Pride and Prejudice, I needed to find some lighter fare. So the next book I chose was Isis Crawford’s latest culinary mystery, A Catered St Patrick’s Day.

This mystery series centers on sisters Bernie and Libby Simmons who own the gourmet shop and bakery, A Little Taste of Heaven. It seems wherever they cater an event, murder follows. Flamboyant Bernie and sensible Libby solve these crimes with help from their retired police chief father Sean Simmons and their boyfriends: Brandon, a local bartender and Marvin, a mortician.

In their newest case, Mike Sweeney, member of the Corn Beef and Cabbage Club is found drowned in a barrel of green beer at a tavern on St Patrick’s Day morning.  When Duncan Nottingham is arrested for the murder, his aunt, prominent socialite Bree Nottingham hires the sisters to investigate and find the real killer.

These irresistible mysteries are so much fun to read mainly due to the squabbling sisters’ comical interplay with their father, boyfriends and goofy townspeople. As an added bonus, the author includes several yummy recipes at the end of the book for the reader to try.

Although I’ve enjoyed all eight of Crawford’s mysteries since I first discovered them four years ago, my all-time favorites are A Catered Halloween and A Catered Birthday Party. I think Crawford’s delightful mysteries would make terrific TV movies for the Hallmark Channel.

After totally immersing myself in everything related to Sherlock Holmes in April, I still craved more. While browsing The New York Times Book Review, I stumbled upon The Pirate King by Laurie R King.

In this ingenious retelling of Conan Doyle’s classic stories, feisty and self-reliant, Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes’ wife narrates the book and helps him solve crimes instead of Dr Watson. Set in 1924 against the backdrop of Britain’s silent film era, Holmes sends Russell off to investigate criminal activity involving illicit drugs and firearms at Fflyte Films after receiving an urgent dispatch from Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade.  Working undercover as a production assistant on the rollicking film version of The Pirates of Penzance, Russell unravels the sinister motives of the movie’s cast, director and crew before Holmes finally arrives.

Although I still prefer Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes adventures, I plan to read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, the first book in King’s eleven part Mary Russell mystery series to find out how the heroine’s marriage and crime solving partnership with Holmes began.

These mysteries and other Colin Firth movies like Pride and Prejudice can be found at all SJCPL locations. For further information, visit the library’s web site at www.libraryforlife.org. See you next time and thanks for reading!

2 Comments

  1. Another triumphant blog by Carol! You made me want to read 2 of these three books – the Cozy and Laurie King. Your descriptions of the plots, as always, give enough information but not too much.

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