Death Comes to the Fair by Catherine Lloyd

deathfair.jpgAn ancient grudge turns to murder in a quiet English village, 1817.

Book 4 in the Regency series finds the spirited rector’s daughter Lucy Harrington and her protective fiance Major Kurland preparing to marry. While judging vegetables at the local fair, Lucy warns him to be diplomatic in his choice of winners. His refusal leads to a storm of outrage among the villagers, who are furious when the verger at the rectory wins.

It isn’t long before Lucy literally trips over the verger’s dead body in a tragic accident. Lucy grows suspicious when they discover a cursed charm by the body and they soon realize that the death was actually murder. While trying to uncover the killer, Lucy must deal with the unpleasant cook who shares her father’s bed, and the frustrating delay in her nuptials. The village’s darker side begin to surface and the couple themselves are placed in grave danger as another body is found.

The murderer’s reasoning is somewhat weak and the couple lose a little of their previous fire, but it’s a light, enjoyable read.

Thanks to NetGalley for the 30-day ebook loan.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Jane Austen’s characters are confronted with murder in this dry Regency mystery.

A murder occurs when Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy’s despised brother-in-law Wickham shows up uninvited. This wasn’t my favourite mystery and I found it difficult to connect with Elizabeth — perhaps as the author herself notes, it is too great a challenge to mimic Ms. Austen’s classic book.

The book goes into excellent and highly readable detail of the era much like an Anne Perry book. It becomes easy to imagine life in the Regency era and fall into the household. The plot of the two suitors for Mr. Darcy’s sister Georgianna is highly interesting, I found myself wanting to know more about them.

But Georgianna herself is not explored enough and the book reads more like a romance than a mystery. There is some question as to who killed Wickham’s friend Captain Denny, but despite some promising hints, it really becomes apparent that only one character could’ve done it. The motive remains unlikely and complicated.

I expect mysteries to give the reader a fair chance of guessing, but in my opinion it was difficult to guess even with the sprinkling of clues.

One amusing tangent is that the book also gets into Ms. Austen’s various books. You get to see annoying characters punished and favourites given a brief mention.

Recommended if you love Jane Austen or Regency era books.

A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde

darcie.jpgA compelling Regency heroine solves the murder of a young man.

This is a deeply immersive mystery set in Regency London. The intelligent heroine Rosalind is demure yet spirited, her life of privilege disrupted by her father’s financial crimes.

There’s a lot of mystery hinted at with her sister and father vanished, and her mother basically gone over the deep end. Her position is as a “useful” woman who understands and helps smooth over social functions with her knowledge of people and position, yet is too lowly to attend many functions.

The mystery plot is well done. Rosalind finds a man’s body in a privileged ballroom. She doesn’t start out as a sleuth, but when the man’s family asks for her help she ends up investigating. The characters are well-developed and Rosalind is torn by all sorts of loyalties and conflicts. She sometimes stumbles along the way, but always with increasing skill and urgency. The romantic angle is well-written but a little over the top at times.

An immersive book that fans of Jane Austen and cozy crime will appreciate!

30-day e-book loan courtesy of NetGalley.