Pride & Prescience: Or a Truth Universally Acknowledged by Carrie Bebris
So as I’m sure you are aware, whether from reading my post Happy Birthday Pride & Prejudice; or perusing your local bookstore/library; there are a lot of sequels to Pride & Prejudice. But unlike those that write about the Darcy children, or married life of Lizzie & Darcy, this one is a mystery.
Yeah, at first I wasn’t sure about it, but when I started reading it, I actually enjoyed it. I solved the mystery quickly, but it was very well written and worth reading. There were a few things I didn’t like, but I’ll save that until the end.
So are you ready to take on this mystery?
So the book begins at the after-the-wedding-next-day-breakfast. Jane was just married to Bingley, and Elizabeth to Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth is happy about how everything went, and even more happy to be married to Darcy.
There is only one thing putting a damper on the event. Caroline Bingley.
Yep, Caroline has struck again. This time she has announced her engagement to an extremely wealthy, American Southerner, Mr. Parrish.
Elizabeth is incredibly put out and part of her wants to say something, but instead she chooses to ignore it share her day, and just enjoy the fact that she is now Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy.
However, Caroline’s sister’s do not adhere to this and even though it is Elizabeth’s wedding day, they delight in being cruel. Some people.
The Darcy’s are planning on staying in Netherfield with the Bingley’s and then heading on to Pemberly as Elizabeth and Darcy are both eager to be home for the Christmas holidays.
Unfortunately, Caroline Bingley once again throws a wrench in their plans. She is having the wedding this upcoming weekend in London.
Yes it seems that Pemberly will have to wait. The Darcy’s have a duty to their friends and now relations, returning to the London house instead.
The house had been closed for the winter, and while the servants are hurriedly putting everything in its place, Elizabeth and Darcy head out for a hotel for dinner. There they meet some of Darcy’s friends, a part I really enjoyed as we don’t get to see that side in the Austen novel. More character depth is always welcome.
That is as long as it stays true to the original character. No secret adoptions, or having a child from a first marriage, or any of that nonsense.
Get it right
There the Darcy’s find out from Lord Chatfield, Darcy’s friend, that Mr. Hurst, Caroline & Charles Bingley’s brother-in-law, has been making numerous bets and losing them. He did bet that Caroline would be engaged soon and must have been ecstatic when he heard the news of her and Mr. Parrish.
The next day the two are off looking about London. One place they visit is the British Museum, which just opened with an exhibit on the supernatural.
There are all sorts of items from the “New World”. Darcy is all practicality that it is nothing but silly superstitions, while Elizabeth wonders at the possibility of maybe there is more to it.
That Saturday, the Darcys find themselves at a dinner party being given by the Chatfields. Elizabeth finds herself seated next to Professor Julian Randolph; American, his field the supernatural, the one who donated the exhibit to the British Museum, and a close friend of Mr. Parrish.
Professor Randolph has found himself forced to move from place to place, as universities find his work interesting, but not so to hire him full time. Elizabeth also notices his watch is no ordinary timepiece but covered in symbols, or “runes.”
After dinner the men and women are separated. In the smoking, brandy, and billiard room; Darcy finds himself accosted by Mr. Kendall. Mr. Kendall was an old partner of the late Mr. Bingley, Charles’ father, and embezzled from him. When the late Mr. Bingley discovered the subterfuge, he disbanded the partner ship, leaving Kendall with much more than he deserved. Even so, Kendall feels he has been cheated an has a lot of animosity for the Bingley’s, animosity that grows stronger as everyone believes Mr. Parrish thew over Miss Kendall for Miss Bingley.
Miss Kendall speaks to Elizabeth over a cup of tea, and tries to assure her that she is fine. But she isn’t. She spills tea everywhere and threatens that if Caroline and Mr. Parrish wed, Caroline will be very sorry.
Caroline’s wedding comes and is quite the shebang. Tons of people, mountains of food, opulent dresses, enormous rings. Everything she could ever want. The Darcys are happy that their London trip has reached a completion and go out to the theater that night as they plan to be leaving soon to the country and beloved Pemberley.
After the play when they are heading home, they pass through a poor section of town, and who should they see? Caroline Parrish!
Why would Caroline be there? And in her nightgown in the middle of the night? Darcy saves her from being mugged, and the two take her home. The whole trip there Caroline seems nothing like herself. Almost as if she was in a trance…or a zombie!
After Darcy and Elizabeth return Caroline home, they can’t stop thinking how odd the whole thing was. Why would Caroline act in such a way? Mr. Parrish tried to reassure them that she must be sleepwalking, but the whole thing seems very odd.
The next day, the Darcys head out to call on the Parrishes and see how Caroline is doing. There they discover that she has gone out riding. Riding! After a night like that you think she would be resting or something.
And with Miss Kendall who practically confessed to hating Caroline’s guts.
As the Darcy’s are contemplating this, Caroline has fallen from her horse as it “mysteriously” bolted. Something is definitely not right here at all.
Elizabeth goes to question Miss Kendall
But ends up getting nowhere.
Darcy and Elizabeth are finally ready to head off to Pemberley. They barely begin to make arrangements when…bum ba bum. You guessed it, they are stalled once again.
Caroline Bingley, oops Caroline Parrish (forgot she was married) was found with her wrists slashed in the kitchen. The doctor was able to save her, but he believes them to be self-inflicted.
Caroline would never do such things, never. The Bingleys, Hursts, & Darcys find it extremely odd. Professor Randolph thinks it is just over-exhaustion from planning the Wedding of the Millennium in a week. Mr. Parrish decides to take her to his plantation in America for her to recover, but everyone nixes that idea. They know Caroline would just hate being sent there. Instead they are heading to Netherfield, the invitation extended to the Darcys, the Hursts, and Professor Randall, the hope being that all together could keep an eye on her and bring her former self back.
Let me just say that in this moment I thought the husband was behind it all. I wasn’t sure how just yet, but I was thinking drugs. To me, the fact that he married so quickly, and right after all this behavior starts up, and then he wants to remove her from her family to where he can either dispose her quickly in quite a few ways on the boat or in the U.S. He’s the one.
I mean she is extremely wealthy and is easy prey for a handsome man with charming qualities. I think he’s behind everything, because he wants her out of the way for her money.
Everyone thinks this is the perfect solution and set off for Nethefield. Upon arriving, Elizabeth can’t help to think this whole thing just seems off. Caroline with fragile nerves? She has the tenacity of a bear. Something is just not right.
But such thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of her mother. After she has invited all to dinner and left, Louisa Hurst tries to make fun of her with Caroline. But to Elizabeth and Jane’s shock, Caroline doesn’t make fun of her. Instead she just thanks the thoughtful gesture.
WHAT? CAROLINE IS ACTUALLY NICE!!!??? Now Elizabeth is certain something is definitely not right. Caroline would never miss out on an opportunity to make fun of the Bennets.
On a side note, the whole Netherfield estate is run by people in need rather than trained servants. It’s pretty funny as I know that is exactly what Jane and Bingley would do. Too tenderhearted for their own good.
Anyways, back to the mystery. So Elizabeth heads over to the hothouse and sees Professor Randolph heavily concentrating on cutting leaves. He says they are spearmint and that he is using them to cure Caroline. He also keeps talking about the upcoming Winter Solstice.
Interesting, very interesting.
Later that evening they all get into a discussion of reason vs. the supernatural. Professor Randolph is all for the unexplained, while Darcy is heavily a nay.
That night Elizabeth cannot sleep and hears something. She goes out and finds Caroline running around the hall. She tries to talk to her, but Caroline is just not responsive. Instead, Elizabeth deposits her with Mr. Parrish and goes back to her room. Is Caroline really sleepwalking? Why is all this happening so suddenly? (Well you all know what I think. It’s the husband.)
The next day the group set out for Longbourn, when the Bingley’s carriage overturns.
Jane and Bingley are okay, but they could have been killed. In fact, there coachman died. They all return to Netherfield and the local doctor is called in.
Now they believe the wheel probably came off for normal reasons, and that the Bingley’s nice but inexperienced help just didn’t realize it was in need of repairs. However, I am a devout mystery reader and was trained by the best, Agatha Christie, so I know that this is no mere coincidence, but someone was attempting to murder the Bingleys. I’m still gunning for Mr. Parrish, money as the motive.
Anyways, at the house it turns out that Mr. Kendall has been waiting quite some time to speak to Mr. Bingley. He arrived just after the group set off (meaning he could have tampered with the wheel, and then “arrived” after they all left to give himself an alibi.) Hmm…
Mr. Kendall doesn’t care that Mr. Bingley has just been in an accident but demands to see him. And of course, sweet Bingley agrees. Darcy also accompanies them, as he knows without him, Bingley would sign himself over.
Mr. Kendall once again starts charging the family with holding money that is rightfully his. He threatens to take them to court, when Darcy presents his trump card. The Bingleys have proof of his embezzlement and if they do go to court all of England will find out about that and the Kendalls will most likely have to either head to the continent (Europe) or the New World.
Mr Kendall is enraged and threatens that he will have his revenge on the Bingley family, no one can stop him. He then storms out, only to storm back in as extreme snow is forcing him to be unable to travel.
Elizabeth keeps dreaming of the carriage wheel falling off, seeing it vividly even though she never witnessed it. She wakes up, and feels that something is not quite right. It is the middle of the night, and all appears to be well, but Elizabeth decides to take a stroll through the house in hopes to calm her mind. She sees a light coming from the library and assumes it must be Bingley, but when she gets closer it is Mr. Kendall and he is rifling through Bingley’s desk. He must be looking for the embezzlement papers! She hides into the next room, until Kendall returns upstairs, and just as she is to go back to her room she spots Caroline. Once again Caroline is pulling a Mrs. Rochester and roaming the house at night. Elizabeth heads toward her to take her back to her room, but after Caroline spots her she returns on her own. Elizabeth goes back to her own room where she tells Darcy about Kendall.
Darcy decides to move the papers and the two go back to sleep. Just as Elizabeth has slipped off to dreamland, she is awakened once more by the calling if her name. She wakes up and realizes that it must have been a dream, but then sees that there is smoke in the room, and FIRE!
She wakes Darcy, and they quickly wake everyone else up, moving them out of the house. Mr. Bingley and Jane are alright, but they have the worst of the smoke damage as the fire was started outside their room. The Hursts are quite okay, as they were wakened before it was too bad in their wing. Mr. Kendall is also, unfortunately, well as is Mr. Parrish and Professor Randolph. But no one can find Caroline.
Mrs. Hurst is complaining about clothes and being put out, etc, etc. But Elizabeth stops listening as she realizes something very odd. When she was calling there was a fire, Mr. Kendall came running down the stairs, fully dressed. While everyone else is in their night clothes, he is the only one who is dressed right. Pretty strange for a man who had “gone to bed.” Hmmm….almost as if he had known…
Interesting, very interesting.
The search for Caroline turns out to be a futile one. Yep, they had her with them the whole time. Caroline is strangely dressed in maid’s clothing, so in the confusion everyone assumed she was a maid. She is badly burned, especially her left hand. They try to question her, but once again Caroline can’t remember. Ever since this whole “thing” started Caroline has been suffering from blackouts. The worst part of the burn is her left fingers, and they try to remove her wedding ring, but Caroline won’t let them.
Mr. Parrish talks to Elizabeth aside from the group and tells her he fears he may have married Mrs. Rochester (not really that’s what I’m calling her). For those of you who have never read any books from the Bronte sisters, Mr. Parrish believes that Caroline may have set the fire and tried to murder her brother and sister-in-law. He now is considering the possibility that an insane asylum is the best way to go.
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! Insane asylums were horrible back in the day. Just horrible. And once you are committed, you would never come out. Men who wanted their wives only for their money, if they didn’t have family members willing to protect them, they would have them committed. Their word was stronger than the “insane” one. Horrible, horrible places. You can say there all kinds of things wrong with mental health facilities today, but none will ever be as bad as back then.
Darcy returns from leading the fire brigade. It turns out that the house wasn’t too damaged, the worst occuring at the master suite while the rest just need airing out from the smoke. The Hursts, Parrishs, Professor Randolph, and Jane go to Longbourn while the clean up is overseen by Darcy and Bingley. Elizabeth remains to be with Darcy, while Mr. Kendall stays as the sky looks bad, (in reality he wants to snoop more).
When Darcy investigates the fire, he finds pieces of Jane’s silver dress in the location of where it started. Weird how they got there as the dress was last seen hanging in the closet. Elizabeth also tells Darcy about her suspicions surrounding Mr. Kendall, and his explanation that he had “fallen asleep in his clothes.” She also tells him about Mr. Parrish’s suspicions of Caroline.
After everyone has returned, Elizabeth overhears Caroline talking to someone and making fun of her family. While in the past this has angered Elizabeth, she readily welcomes it as it is a sign of the old Caroline. However, when she peeks into the room she sees that Caroline is actually talking to herself.
Later Elizabeth is asked to sit in during one of Professor Randolph and Caroline’s sessions, as Professor Randolph can’t locate Mr. Parrish. He questions Caroline and she is her normal irritable self and in pain over her ring. Professor Randolph has spearmint around and speaks some phrases in a low voice.
That night is not fun at all. Mr. Kendall is completely rude and insulting. He makes digs at Caroline, insinuates that Mr. Parrish is not all that he seems but a rotter, and that Mr. Hurst is a river rat gambler.
Interesting, very interesting.
Darcy and Elizabeth discuss Mr. Kendall’s comments. Could Mr. Hurst be gambling all his money away? Is Mr. Parrish a snake? Is Caroline too far gone for help?
Elizabeth starts thinking about why all this is happening. Could Mr. Hurst have gambled all his money away and is trying to kill Bingley, Jane, and Caroline so that he inherits? Could Mr. Kendall be trying to kill them all? Mr. Darcy is not wholly convinced, but decides to write to friends for some info on Hurst, and keep a close eye on Kendall.
Later, Elizabeth is working on needlework when she is approached by Mr. Parrish. He is attempting a custom he heard about in New Orleans about taking the hair of friends and family to create a good luck charm. He asks for her hair, but Elizabeth refuses, partly because she is not really a friend of Caroline, and because Darcy would be furious that she gave her hair to any man but him. You have to remember that giving of your hair symbolized a very close relationship. Usually the two were engaged, close friends, or related.
Darcy and Bingley are discussing the repairs of the house and the landlord, when they set off to the billiard room to play pool. There they discover Hurst and Kendall playing, with Hurst not looking as if he is really enjoying himself. Hurst takes off, and Bingley is called away; leaving Darcy with Mr. Kendall.
Without any excuse, Darcy plays a game with Kendall. Mr. Kendall talks to Darcy about his dislike for Mr. Parrish. Apparently he was the one who stopped the engagement, contrary to what has been said around town. He thought that Mr. Parrish was too forward, asking his daughter for a lock of hair before he even declared himself. Luckily for Darcy, Mr. Parrish comes in and tells Darcy that Bingley needs him.
Elizabeth and Jane are looking at the poorly hung Christmas decorations. Elizabeth leaves her to grab her bonnet for a walk when she sees Mr. Randolph and Caroline having a session, alone, and no ordinary one. Leaves have been scattered all around her and Professor Randolph is speaking some strange words over her and pressing an object into her left hand. Caroline looked deathly pale. Elizabeth also starts feeling strange, as if the words are coming over her as well.
Elizabeth interrupts them and Professor Randolph acts very suspicious. Not answering any of Elizabeth’s questions at all. Elizabeth finds herself questioning, what this man is really about. Especially when he asks her to keep all that she has seen a secret from everyone.
So now they are up to three suspects.
- Mr. Kendall– He could be trying to kill the Bingleys because of the money he feels that he has been cheated out of. He also could be trying to get rid of Caroline because of his daughter being thrown over. Remember, his daughter was with Caroline when her horse bolted.
- Mr. Hurst– If his debts are as extremely high as Elizabeth suspects, he might be trying to kill his relations off for money.
- 3) Professor Randolph– Professor Randolph has been drifting from place to place as most don’t feel his studies are legitimate. Now that Caroline is crazy, he has room and board as the prime caretaker for Caroline. Maybe he is making her seem crazy, and could even be trying to make it look as if she set the fire, to only further cement Mr. Parrish’s need of him.
And of course my pick, 4) Mr. Parrish- He only married Caroline for her money and is trying to remove her from the picture. He is supposed to be extremely wealthy, but for some people what they have is never enough. Besides, he could be lying about how wealthy he is, or have hidden debt that they don’t know about.
Elizabeth tells Mr. Parrish about the session she saw, and he becomes incensed. He yells at Professor Randolph, nearly knocking him down the stairs.
Mr. Parrish once again brings up the idea of placing Caroline in an insane asylum. To Elizabeth and Darcy’s shock, her family actually is considering doing it. They suggest getting her a nurse, but that idea is shot down. Professor Randolph doesn’t agree as he thinks that Carolin is improving. In fact, he believes a few more sessions with him will help her. But Parrish cuts him off, letting him know that his help is no longer necessary. In fact, as soon as the storm ends Professor Randolph is whole-heartedly invited to leave.
Mr. Darcy receives a letter from his friend, regarding Mr. Hurst. Mr. Hurst had been gambling a lot and owes a whole ton of money. To makes things worse, Mr. Kendall bought up all his IOUs. Buying IOUs was very popular then. Let’s say Steve owes Tom, Dick, and Harry $5 each. George buys the IOUs from the three, paying what is owed. Now Steve owes George $15. Not only was it beneficial to the person who was owed money, but the person who bought up the IOUs, espechially the big ones, was now in a position of power over the others.
Seeing as Hurst has huge debts, and now is indebted to Kendall, it makes him a much stronger suspect. He might be trying to kill the Bingleys to inherit or doing the dirty work of Mr. Kendall.
The plot thickens
While the Darcys are going to ask Kendall more questions, they discover his body. Now the question who is trying to kill the Bingleys and who killed Kendall?
If you wish to not have the ending spoiled then stop reading. Know that I enjoyed this book immensely, except for a later “supernatural” part. I think that this is something all Austen fans should check out. For those who are okay with me telling them the end, continue.
So now things have changed. Either there are two murderers, one after the Bingleys and the other after Mr. Kendall, or this is one. But why and who?
- Mr. Hurst- As stated before, he could have been trying to kill the Bingleys either for the money or because Mr. Kendall is using his debts to force him too. He could have killed Kendall because of his debts to him or to stop him from trying to murder his extended family.
- Professor Randolph– Trying to kill the Bingleys, but making it look like Caroline in order to keep a position in the house. Maybe Mr. Kendall knew somthing about him? It’s a weak reason, I know.
- Mr. Parrish– Killing the Bingleys for money, killed Mr. Hurst because he knew more about him than Mr. Parrish wanted to be public.
Mrs. Hurst is excused from being a suspect as she is too stupid, and of course Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane, and Bingley aren’t suspects.
As they further search the crime scene, they discover signs written out in the dust on the floor, the same signs Elizabeth saw on Professor Randolph’s watch. The same watch in the dead man’s clutches
When Professor Randolph is questioned, he says that he misplaced his watch. But did he really? But if it was him, why would he leave signs on the ground that would clearly trace everything back to him?
Interesting, very interesting.
Professor Randolph tries to get Elizabeth to give him his watch back as Darcy has it. Or forgive me, I forgot to mention that the constable is a bumbling fool and Mr. Darcy is the one who really takes charge of the situation.
Anyways, the rest of the group is questioned, but no one really has anything to help. Elizabeth speaks to Darcy about her suspicions of Professor Randolph. The pentagram symbol on the floor, the way he acted about the watch, the death on the winter solstice, etc. Elizabeth also believes that something unnatural is going on, she can feel it.
Darcy doesn’t agree with her feelings, although he agrees the evidence is pointing toward Professor Randolph.
To only make things better, Miss Kendall descends on the house angry and demanding to know who murdered her father. And Professor Randolph has disappeared.
None of the maids want to be around Caroline as they are afraid that she is going to hurt them as she is “crazy.” Elizabeth goes in to talk to her and helps take the ring off that has been hurting her finger. As soon as the ring is off, it is as if Caroline has awaken from her haze, she tries to tell Elizabeth something, but is interrupted by Mr. Parrish, who promptly puts the ring back on.
Afterwards, Elizabeth finds herself questioning her suspicions of Professor Randolph. The watch seems to call to her, and she remembers that Professor Randolph had the watch on Caroline’s left hand. And that even though Caroline is right handed her left was injured. And that Caroline has been trying to get rid of the ring on her left hand. Hmm…
Interesting, very interesting.
The ring! There is something in that ring. The last time Caroline was normal, she had removed her ring briefly. Professor Randolph must have enchanted it and is controlling her. Darcy doesn’t believe her, so Elizabeth sets off on her own to get that ring off Caroline’s finger on her own.
Darcy goes to look through Mr. Kendall’s things to see if there is something that might lead to the answers of his death. He comes upon Miss Kendall already looking through Mr. Kendall’s papers, and she hands Darcy a letter. The letter says that Mr. Parrish is not who he says he is but a conman known as Jack Diamond. He is a pickpocket, swindler, and murderer. Professor Randolph is a professor, like he said, and frequents pawn shops (unknown as why). Darcy puts all the pieces together, and sets off to find him.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth goes to see Caroline, intent on removing the ring. She is interrupted by Mr. Parrish and shares her thoughts. Mr. Parrish is not happy as he was the one who cursed the ring. He has bewitched the wedding bands so that he controls Caroline. He killed Kendall too.
He has Caroline tie up Elizabeth, as he contemplates what to do with her. Elizabeth’s maid comes by looking for her, but Mr. Parrish gets rid if her. Mr. Darcy forces himself in with Mr. Bingley’s pistol, but is forced to concede when he sees Elizabeth held up by knifepoint. Mr. Parrish tosses the gun to Caroline, having her watch over the two. Mr. Parrish decides he is going to take Elizabeth with him, and will ransom her for all of Darcy’s money.
Footsteps come down the hallway and Mr. Parrish runs to the door, with the dagger to keep any from coming in. Darcy grabs the fireplace poker to use against him. As Caroline points the gun at Darcy, Elizabeth uses her weight to knock Caroline down. As everyone is struggling and fighting, Bingley and Professor Randolph come in. Mr. Parrish uses the “good luck amulet” to control Bingley and stop Professor Randolph. Professor Randolph yells at Elizabeth to use his amulet, the watch on Caroline. She does and reduces the power. Eventually all overpower Parrish and remove his objects of control.
Professor Randolph uses an oak rod from the museum exhibit, taps it on the objects and says a few words. He “removes” all the power from the objects. He explains that the rings were from the 16th century and that they had been commissioned by a marquis who was jealous of his wife. Professor Randolph wanted to purchase them, but had no money to do so. He met Mr. Parrish, who purchased the rings, paid for Professor Randolph to come with him to America, would possibly fund his next expedition, and could introduce him to other wealthy patrons. Parrish was also very interested in all his work and asked him a gazillion questions. Professor Randolph taught him a charm to make him not in complete control of those he has a lock of hair from, but able to make strong suggestions.
In the end the Darcys finally make it to Pemberley for Christmas
Mr. Parrish was imprisoned and Caroline began the process of a divorce. The Hursts debts forced them to depart for the continent. Jane and Bingley resumed life as normal, and began searching for a house to buy. Miss Kendall inherited everything from her father, and married. Professor Randolph was able to make it out of the whole drama okay. He believes that Elizabeth has “the power” and offers to help her any time be able to understand and control her gift.
So I liked the book as I felt it stayed true to the characters, while at the same time Carrie Bebris was able to put her own spin on them. The mystery was good, even though I figured it out very fast. The only think I didn’t like was Elizabeth’s “supernatural” powers. I don’t like supernatural mysteries, so I would have kept that out, but otherwise it was very good novel and I’m looking forward to reading its sequel.
For more Pride & Prejudice, go to Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart
For more retellings of Pride & Prejudice, go to The Accidental Bride
For more on works inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, go to Happy Birthday Pride & Prejudice
For more mysteries, go to A Whole Lot of Fanfare