If she hadn’t been a principled woman (and undercover) she would’ve shacked up with the suit — had he offered. He might have made her rethink that Eli Bennet doctrine. Of all the men who had made passes at her, his would have been the one she welcomed and accepted. When he had glanced in her direction her breath caught. Tall, mysterious, and handsome, his brooding smolder was hard-boiled through and through.
Quick summary: Cat Gardiner’s Undercover brilliantly blends Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with crime fiction Noir, telling the tale of Elizabeth “Eli” Bennet, a gumshoe on the trail of George “Slick Wick” Wickham as she investigates the disappearance of her best friend, Mary King. Elizabeth’s family thinks she’s a bookkeeper for Macy’s but instead she runs Bennet Private Investigations in an office/apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. She’s a career girl who high-tailed it out of her drunken parents’ home in Queens as soon as she was able. She’s at odds with her sister, Jane, who’s biting comments put a dent in Elizabeth’s self-esteem, and she knows what it’s like to have loved and lost. Her investigation leads her to wealthy bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, and you can cut the sexual tension between them with a knife. The two join forces when Darcy’s socialite sister, Georgiana, gets entangled with Wickham and some communist thugs. Set in 1952 in the midst of the Red Scare, Gardiner takes readers on an exciting ride through the dark side of New York City and the nightlife in Havana.
Why I wanted to read it: I’ve long wanted to read Gardiner’s work, and the cover is among my all-time favorites.
What I liked: Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller who had me hooked from the very first page. The use of slang from the era, her vivid descriptions, the steamy scenes, and the murder mystery are handled so perfectly that I could picture the entire book in my head, as though I were actually watching a black-and-white hard-boiled crime drama on the screen. She moved Austen’s characters into 1952 New York City in a way that felt true to them. I loved that she gave Darcy a painful back story and that Elizabeth and Jane weren’t the best of friends. Gardiner’s portrayal of Georgiana as a modern and independent though innocent and sheltered young woman is handled beautifully, as is Lydia’s downfall at the hands of Slick Wick.
What I disliked: Only that I’ve been so busy lately that I couldn’t finish the book in one sitting! And that I waited so long to finally read one of Gardiner’s books. (I am so thankful that I have a few more waiting on my Kindle!)
Final thoughts: Undercover is unique among Pride and Prejudice variations, and if I were to attempt to create a list of my all-time favorite variations, it likely would be near the top. Gardiner is a breath of fresh air in JAFF (and historical fiction in general), and I can’t wait to read more of her work. Undercover is a definite on my Best of 2016 list.
To learn about Gardiner’s inspiration for Undercover, check out this guest post from April.
Disclosure: I received Undercover from the author for review.
© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.