The Suspicion at Sanditon: Or, The Disappearance of Lady Denham
by Carrie Bebris
Cover Artist: Teresa Fasolino
Review by Gayle Surrette
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765327994
Date: 14 July 2015 List Price $23.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Jane Austen never finished writing Sanditon. She'd developed the major characters and set them in what was to become a first class resort area to rival Bath and Brighton, but was just trying to entice visitors to build their reputation. She left it unfinished.
Carrie Bebis takes this beginning, uses the existing characters, throws Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth into the mix, adds a bit of mystery, family secrets, and a dark and stormy night, a romance or two, and keeps readers guess until the end. Of course, most mystery readers may see many similarities in the overall structure to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, but there's enough variation and surprise to keep you wondering if it's just the isolation and story that brings that story to the mind.
Darcy's cousin, Col. Fitzwilliam and his wife, the former Anne de Bourgh, are considering investing in Sanditon, the new up and coming place to vacation on the coast. They'd learned of the opportunity from Mr. Tomas Parker who'd been injured and was staying with friends local to them. When the Darcy's arrived, they and the Fitzwilliams planned to go to Sanditon to check out the area. However, a family emergency arose and the Darcy's end up going to Sanditon by themselves to be join by the Fitzwilliams later. They were also to check up on Miss Charlotte Heywood and young friend of Elizabeth's, who had gone on ahead to visit with the Parkers.
The Darcy's arrived in Sanditon and meet with Thomas Parker, his wife, and children. They also meet Sidney Parker, Thomas' brother, and Lady Denham and her companion, Miss Claire Brereton. Lady Denham insists that everyone gather for dinner at her home. When all the guests arrive and gather in the study prior to dinner, Lady Denham doesn't show up. The other guests are an interesting mix.
After a long delay, a search for Lady Denham is started. However, it's dark and most of the guests don't know the layout of the house. Darcy steps up and tries to get things organized so that every area is checked and the people he's already not comfortable with are not left to search on their own. When they regroup, it is obvious that Lady Denham is not in the mansion and that foul play may be involved.
As the night progresses, a storm breaks, and one by one the guests are disappearing. Darcy and Elizabeth begin to think more is involved than an elderly lady wandering away. Who would want to kidnap Lady Denham? And, why? How does that connect to the other guests that have disappeared from the house? Does it have anything to do with the Sanditon project? Is it to do with Lady Denham's will?
The tension builds as the evening moves to dawn and there are fewer and fewer guests present in the mansion -- and none of them have walked away on their own. Secrets and family history come to light that add more layers to the evening and ramp up the need for the Darcy's to solve the situation and for the reader to keep those pages turning.
As usual, Bebris manages to write a tightly plotted mystery while keeping the feel and tone of a Jane Austen period novel. The characters are fairly archetypal but none the less believable because we've probably meet one or more of them in our lives. There's comedy, drama, mystery, and romance -- in other words an entertaining addition to the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries.