If Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, and Ella Enchanted merged styles and genres, this witty parody of all three would be the result.
Let’s start with the Austen tropes that are hilariously skewered in the character of Beatrice Steele and her oh-so-Bennet-like family. I speak of the well-bred Bennets of Pride and Prejudice, of course, with their uptight, marriage-mongering mother, relaxed father, and daughters of marriageable age and prospect. Beatrice has strong Lizzie Bennet vibes in her self-possession and independence, which is why the family is not banking their hopes for a suitable marriage on her. She can’t even do needlework very well, a desirable attribute for prospective wives. And the Steele’s do need one of their daughters to marry well, and fast: Their father’s distant cousin, Martin Grub, a sufferer of post-nasal drip, is trying to make a case that he, not Beatrice’s father, should inherit the estate. The daughters cannot inherit due to their being female, and the only way to save themselves is if one of them makes a match with a wealthy bachelor.
Thank goodness sister Louisa is beautiful and proficient at the pianoforte! She is not afflicted like Beatrice with the deep, dark desire to sleuth. Beatrice, secretly obsessed with the famous detective Sir Huxley and the mysteries she reads about in the newspaper, rolls her eyes at society events such as the annual Stabmort Park ball, but even she realizes how important it is that Louisa snag a rich husband that night.
When the likeliest prospect, Edmund Croaksworth, drops dead at the ball, Beatrice must simultaneously try and solve the murder while pretending she is as decorous and seemly as her village of Swampshire, England, demands she be. (The multi-volume rulebook for women offers rules such as “Ladies must not be … persistent.”)
It quickly becomes obvious that the murderer is one of the ball attendees, who are all trapped together in the mansion due to one of Swampshire’s terrible hailstorms, ala one of Agatha Christie’s locked-room mysteries. Good thing the plucky Beatrice has mysterious detective Vivek Drake—he of the murky past and swashbuckling eye patch—to team up with as they race against time to uncover whodunnit. (Unfortunately, they cannot stand each other. What a surprise.)
Replete with fairy-tale elements such as glowing frogs everywhere, dangerous “squelch holes,” and magical horse-driven carriages, A Murder Most Agreeable is an amiable, cozy romp through several genres that somehow blends together like a charm. (Random House)