Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Pride and Premeditation, by Tirzah Price

Harper Audio, ISBN 9780063053601, April 2021

This is a "voice galley," intended only for reviewers and read by a synthetic voice, not whoever will be the narrator. This is not the version that will be for sale.

This an alternative version of Pride and Prejudice, in  which Mr. Bennet is a barrister, and the family live in the Cheapside section of London. His firm is Longbourne & Sons, but of course there are no sons, and the dreadful Mr. Collins, a cousin from Hertfordshire, has been employed as a solicitor for the firm, and named as the heir.

Next we come to Elizabeth Bennet and her friend, Charlotte Lucas. Charlotte in this retelling has a very respectable father, Sir Henry Lucas, but Sir Henry married a West Indian woman, and Charlotte is too dark-skinned to pass as "really English." Charlotte works as a secretary in the Longbourne firm. Elizabeth longs to be a barrister, and volunteers at the firm, doing work the junior solicitors don't have time for, and in Mr. Collins's case, isn't really very good at.

Let's be clear that that entire paragraph is impossible in Regency England. Women did not work in law firms, certainly not as secretaries, which is how up and coming young men got their start. A woman becoming a barrister or a solicitor was not just unlikely and disapproved of; it was impossible. The mixed-race Charlotte, without a rich dowry, would have no chance, rather than very little chance, of achieving what from her upbringing and education she would consider a respectable marriage. A position as a governess or a companion would have been her best prospects.

The author, however, knows this, and made the changes intentionally, to give the intelligent and headstrong Elizabeth Bennet more scope. It's really handled very well, just plausible enough that I was willing to run with it.

The other major change, of course, is that this is a murder mystery.

The murder victim is William Hurst, husband of Charles Bingley's sister, Louisa. Charles, of course, is the obvious suspect. William is a drunk and an unsuccessful gambler, a constant drain on the resources of Bingley and his company, Netherfield Shipping. He took Hurst home, dead drunk, at night, and in the morning returned to the Hurst home to find him, quite simply, dead. Stabbed nearly a dozen times--and when Elizabeth asks him specific questions about the condition of the body, it's clear that when found, he certainly wasn't killed by Charles, the night before. The body is not yet cool, nor is the blood completely dry.

What follows is a puzzling mystery, as Charles, with his frustrations over William Hurst's drain on the family resources and neglect of Louisa, is the one with the most obvious motive. The Bingley solicitor, Fitzwilliam Darcy, of Pemberley & Associates, intends to have a barrister defend Bingley on the basis of his excellent character and great respectability, but Elizabeth doubts this will be effective. The conflict between the two of them is as delightful as ever, and they almost despite themselves uncover the nefarious plot behind the murder.

This is just a lot of fun, and I forgive the historical inaccuracies because they are both intentional and entertaining.


I received a free "voice galley" of this audiobook from the publisher via NetGalley, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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