Prepare to greet “Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie” in the delightful novel “Murder at Rosings”, by Annette Purdey Pugh, which was published by Honno on 17 June 2021.
Taking off where Pride and Prejudice left off, it doesn’t take long for us to be drawn right back into the world of some of that novel’s most memorable characters – Mr. Bennet and his daughter Mary, (perhaps the least known of the Bennet sisters), are visiting with Mr. Collins, the rector, in the vicinity of Lady Catherine’s estate at Rosings, when a terrible murder takes place.
The characters are perfectly crafted – Mr. Collins is as pompous and fawning as ever in his servitude of the formidable Lady Catherine.
Set in 1806, this clever book introduces us to a local magistrate, Sir John Bright, and his trusty side-kick, full time wheelwright and part-time constable Robert Archer, who are determined to make use of the “modern” investigative crime solving process just beginning to materialize in England with the advent of an initial policing unit.
Bright and Archer now have their work cut out for them. Not only is the murder “jigsaw puzzle a particularly untidy one” to solve, but the new and strange investigative process itself forces them to cross impenetrable class boundaries when meeting “upstairs” with the privileged members of the estate, (who are used to their own absolute authority) as well as “downstairs” with the inhabitants of the servant classes (who fear and mistrust outside authority). Bright and Archer struggle to find a toe-hold into a case which is heavily constrained by deep cultural boundaries on what is acceptable to question or discuss and where above all, “appearance of order and respectability will be paramount”.
Reading this book has the joy of meeting with old and well-known friends, (including the less-than-admirable ones), blended with the cozy comfort of a British murder mystery. The plotting is twisty and interesting, weaving us into the everyday hopes, and dreams, obligations and pettiness, of the working classes and their “nobles”. It’s a great read, right up to the satisfying and creative conclusion (which I did not guess).
So quickly did I devour this one that I was disappointed to reach the end. I hope there will be more coming of these wonderful characters from this very skilled author.
A great big thank you to Random Things for inviting me to join this blog tour, and to the author, for an advance review copy of this wonderful and original book. All thoughts presented are my own.