Review: The Phantom of Pemberley, by Regina Jeffers
Happily married for over a year and more in love than ever, Darcy and Elizabeth can’t imagine anythinginterrupting their bliss-filled days. Then an intense snowstorm strands a group of travelers at Pemberley, and terrifying accidents and mysterious deaths begin to plague the manor. Everyone seems convinced that it is the work of a phan-tom—a Shadow Man who is haunting the Darcy family’s grand estate.What Jeffers has done here (quite artfully, I might add) is recast a continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice as a kind of gothic mystery. I would not go so far as to say the Darcys become a "husband-and-wife detective team," as this is not really as well-crafted as Carrie Bebris' Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery series, but it certainly has an air of Northanger Abbey about it - themes of insanity, murders made to look like suicides, hidden passageways, and watchful eyes.
Darcy and Elizabeth believe the truth is much more menacing and that someone is trying to murder them. But Pemberley is filled with family guests as well as the unexpected travelers—any one of whom could be the culprit—so unraveling the mystery of the murderer’s identity forces the newlyweds to trust each other’s strengths and work together.
Written in the style of the era and including Austen’s romantic playfulness and sardonic humor, this suspense-packed sequel to Pride and Prejudice recasts Darcy and Elizabeth as a husband-and-wife detective team who must solve the mystery at Pemberley and catch the murderer—before it’s too late.
While it begins with inklings of the paranormal - men in strange hats who seem to vanish into thin air - it is quickly established that Pemberley's Phantom is no ghost. Jeffers tells a good chunk of the book from the phantom's perspective and in doing so manages to deceive even the reader as to the culprit's identity.
Ms. Jeffers is no stranger to Austen continuations. She's the author of eight of them, including this one. And while her forte seems to be the lush and sexually charged romances (i.e. Darcy's Temptation, Darcy's Passions, and Vampire Darcy's Desire - which I can only hope is better than Amanda Grange's monster-osity) she's allowed the Darcy romance to simmer almost perfectly in this novel. Sure, they still defy the Regency norms and sleep in one bed and have lots and lots of sex every evening, and there's no such thing as a chamber pot etc. etc. but most of the details are thankfully left to the imagination.
Jeffers instead allows the other characters to become surprising rounded. Anne de Bourgh may have been sketched by Jane Austen, but Jeffers colors her in and brings her to life in a way I haven't really seen in similar novels. And as for the twist, and there is a twist, it's not something you expect. And that's always appreciated.