Book Review: Death and Sensibility by Elizabeth Blake
I love Jane Austen and I enjoy cozy mysteries, so this mystery set at an Austenesque convention in York would seem to be right up my alley. The keynote speaker being found dead when the convention has hardly started sets everyone atwitter, and Erin, bookstore owner and amateur sleuth, can’t resist the temptation to start her own investigation.
Okay. The first thing that got to me was how utterly unrealistic it was that Erin had all this free time on her hands. I’ve been on the managing committee for conventions, and all you have time to do is run around like a headless chicken dealing with everything that goes wrong - from speakers getting lost to delegates getting into fights - eat (if you’re lucky) and fall into bed utterly exhausted before getting up to do it all again. Erin attends I think two panels, both of which she’s moderating, and spends the rest of the week visiting the spa, gossiping with her friend Farnsworth, eating (so much eating) and sticking her nose in where it really doesn’t belong. I didn’t buy it for a second. Also, who was running Erin’s bookshop while she spent a week in York? Not one mention of it. Not one call to or from a staff member checking up on her business.
And what was with all the eating? We got an intimate description of every piece of food that passed Erin’s lips for an entire week. Think I’m kidding? I can tell you she ate trout almandine for dinner at least three times, and guess what: I didn’t care. This isn’t a culinary mystery. The food should be an aside at the most, not the focus of every second chapter!
Erin, I’m afraid, got right up my nose. There’s one point where a police officer tells her “You’re what my mother would call a curtain twitcher”. And this is where I realized that the author is NOT English, because that is the kind of insult that would have any Englishwoman storming out of the room in high dudgeon, after probably having slapped your face, and Erin doesn’t even react. She is a curtain twitcher, though. Even when plainly told to stay out of the investigation, she ignores all advice and instructions and starts interviewing the hotel staff!
A good cozy mystery has the main character stumbling into the plot, unable to avoid it because it’s happening all around her. Erin inserts herself into a mystery that’s nothing to do with her, one that I’m fairly confident the police would have solved with some decent detective work even without her nearly getting herself killed. We never even got a real answer about the killer’s motives for one of the three murders which take place during the course of the book.
There’s a token diverse character, a Senegalese woman who has no effect on the plot and is literally just there for Erin to demonstrate how friendly and not at all racist she is, and how nobody in Austen spaces could ever possibly be racist. It’s a transparent play for Woke Points and it annoyed me more than anything else in the book.
This dragged, badly, but I rarely DNF books because I like to critique things in the knowledge that I have considered it in full. Having finished the book, therefore, I can say with absolute certainty that I hated it, and I’ll be avoiding this author in the future. One star.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.