A Sense and Sensibility Mystery
A Jane Austen-inspired mystery, set in the world of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, being the fourth novel in the Miss Mary Investigates series.
When Mary Bennet befriends Elinor Dashwood, she expects to become part of the young lady’s circle and be introduced to her friends and relations. She does not expect that one of this circle should die, far too young, and in most unfortunate circumstances. Worse, Elinor is secretly in love with one of the suspects, Edward Ferrars, and he is inconveniently engaged to somebody else. When an investigator is called in to assist, Mary is more surprised still.
Alexander Lyons expects to find death and deceit in his line of work, but he does not expect to come face to face with Mary, who hasn’t replied to his letters of late. What is she doing in London? And how is she involved with this sorry business of murder? Still, despite the tension between the two, they make a good team as they seek to unravel the mystery surrounding them.
From the elegant drawing rooms of Mayfair to the reeking slums of St. Giles, the two must use every bit of wit and logic they possess to uncover a killer, all the while, trying to puzzle out the workings of their own hearts.
Join Mary Bennet, Lizzy’s often overlooked sister from Pride and Prejudice, and her intriguing and handsome friend Alexander Lyons, as they are pulled into the world of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility in this, their latest adventure.
“You must understand our concern.” The red-coated colonel paced up and down Alexander Lyons’ small office. He paused when he reached the offered chair once more, but did not sit down. He glanced down at the stack of cards on the desk that read Alexander Lyons, Investigator, and gave a brief bob of his head, as if reassuring himself he was in the proper place. Then he resumed pacing.
Alexander considered the man who had come calling a few minutes before. He had not written ahead, but had knocked at the door and hoped that the investigator was available. “You come highly recommended by a fellow officer, name of Fitzwilliam,” the colonel had explained. “He said you had done great service to the family. I hope you can help us, too.”
The colonel had then introduced himself as Nicholas Brandon of Delaford in Dorsetshire. He was requesting Alexander’s services, he said, not on his own behalf but on that of a certain gentleman whom he knew, but who was too uncertain of matters to make the call himself. He took the offered seat and explained the situation, then rose and began pacing as Alexander considered what he had heard.
“Let me repeat this.” Alexander spoke slowly as thoughts swirled in his head. He knew his broad Scots accent would not deter this stalwart colonel, but poorly chosen words and stumbling sentences might. “Your friend had a falling out with his mother three months ago and was disinherited in favour of his younger brother, Robert Ferrars. That brother had a will that he made last year, upon turning twenty-one.” Alexander looked up for confirmation. Seeing Brandon’s nod, he continued. “That document left everything to his brother Edward. This seems reasonable and quite unexceptionable. Very well. Now this is where matters get sticky.
“This same Robert Ferrars was killed three days ago. To all accounts, he was returning home very late through Hyde Park from a rather exclusive gaming establishment. That is of little import right now, although it may become vital later. What does matter at this moment is that he was beaten, robbed, and left dead at the scene. His estate ought, therefore, to have passed to his brother Edward with no concerns raised.
“But…” There was always a ‘but.’ “But on the day that the terms of the will were announced, a certain person, a lady, came forward claiming that she was, in fact, Robert Ferrars’ wife and that Ferrars’ considerable wealth ought rightly to be hers.”
Alexander rose and moved to a shelf of books that sat against the far wall. He selected a tome and brought it to his desk, where he proceeded to open it and turn the pages until he found the one he wanted. Without looking at the words before him, he continued. “But there is no evidence of a marriage, and even if there were, the rule from Lugg v Lugg from 1696 is that it requires marriage and the birth of children to effect a revocation of a will.”
Here Brandon interrupted him. “On what grounds would the extant will be revoked? Does the state of marriage annul a previous legal document? Yes, I know from Fitzwilliam that you are a lawyer by training. This is one of the considerations that brought me here today.”
Alexander gave a nod and hoped he looked sufficiently scholarly. Not many men took him seriously, what with his strong brogue (that became stronger or weaker, depending on how annoying he found his company) and his mop of coppery-red hair. He knew he appeared and sounded like a kilt-wearing heathen from the braes, and this was an image he rather cultivated, no matter that it might cost him some business. Now, however, he preferred to project the image of a learned and capable man of letters.
“Just so. I read law at Glasgow, where I did my degree. I do not practise that profession, but I follow the latest judgments. My qualifications remain valid.”
Brandon looked satisfied.
“Marriage,” Alexander returned to the colonel’s question, “is a fundamental change in circumstance. It is assumed that upon taking a wife and having children, a man necessarily wishes to provide for his family. Therefore, the court should take notice of what is—or ought to be—a clear and obvious intent.”
“But that requires marriage and children…”
“And as you have told me, Lucy Steele, or Lucy Ferrars, should her tale be true, claims to be enceinte.”
“Mmmm.” Brandon was a man not given to unnecessary speech.
“And the question arises as to whether an unborn child has the status of a living child. This has been much about the courts these last ten or fifteen years. In Doe v Lancashire, it was ruled that a posthumous child does indeed hold the same status as a living child, on the condition that the father knew of that expectation. It is understood that he would wish to provide for the child, hence the material change in circumstance. But if he did not know…”
“Then the previous will stands.”
“Just so. Just so.”
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