Series: Mr. Darcy & Miss Tilney Mystery #1
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on May 3, 2022
Genres: Fiction / Adaptations & Pastiche, Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Historical, Fiction / Romance / Historical / Regency
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A summer house party turns into a thrilling whodunit when Jane Austen's Mr. Wickham—one of literature’s most notorious villains—meets a sudden and suspicious end in this brilliantly imagined mystery from a New York Times bestselling author featuring Austen’s leading literary characters.
“Had Jane Austen sat down to write a country house murder mystery, this is exactly the book she would have written.” —Alexander McCall Smith
The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a party at their country estate, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial scheme has netted him an even broader array of enemies. As tempers flare and secrets are revealed, it’s clear that everyone would be happier if Mr. Wickham got his comeuppance. Yet they’re all shocked when Wickham turns up murdered—except, of course, for the killer hidden in their midst.
Nearly everyone at the house party is a suspect, so it falls to the party’s two youngest guests to solve the mystery: Juliet Tilney, the smart and resourceful daughter of Catherine and Henry, eager for adventure beyond Northanger Abbey; and Jonathan Darcy, the Darcys’ eldest son, whose adherence to propriety makes his father seem almost relaxed. In this tantalizing fusion of Austen and Christie, from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray, the unlikely pair must put aside their own poor first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced to hang.
A VINTAGE ORIGINAL
Before I gush about how much I loved this book and how fun it is, I will talk about a few frustrating things. I was unhappy with how long it took to get to Wickham’s murder. Not only does the story drag on at the beginning, but I also hate Wickham so much that I want him dead as soon as possible. Juliet finds Wickham’s body between pages 70-80, if I remember correctly. When reading murder mysteries, there’s an understanding that the murder or dead body happens in the first few chapters/pages (depending on how long your chapters are). With this kind of mystery (based on a classic novel of already established characters), there needs to be some information on how they all come together and what’s happened since the closing of their books. I found that part enjoyable to see the characters interact with each other and what’s happened since, but there could’ve been some edits at the beginning.
While the conclusion was interesting, it felt like it could be more satisfying. I was a bit disappointed by who had done it and the why, not that it wasn’t believable, it definitely was, but I wanted something a bit meatier, if that makes sense.
Now, on to how much fun this book was. I loved it! It was fun and exciting to see all the characters interact with each other and see how they are as married couples. I especially love seeing how Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage plays out and their tension during the novel. Losing a child is one of the worst traumas someone could go through, and it’s going to cause issues.
Speaking of the Darcys, I have to bring up Jonathan! Oh, my sweet summer child, I love my little bean, who’s so adorable. A few days before I started reading the book, a book club I’m in talked about how Darcy is an autistic coded character, so it was hilarious when I started reading and finding out that Jonathan is autistic. He’s my favorite, along with Juliet Tilney! I love how Juliet acts like a typical Regency woman but departs from that role by standing up for herself and having her own mind. She was a thoroughly fascinating character. I also absolutely love the interactions between Juliet and Jonathan. They are both adorable little beans and have my entire heart. It’s nice to see Juliet judge Jonathan at first but later realize he has quirks but is still worth being friends with (or something more). She doesn’t degrade or look down on him for his autism, even though that wouldn’t have been a diagnosis back then.
The other characters were all great, and Gray did a fantastic job honoring the source material by Jane Austen and making them her own. Gray’s extension of their stories was fun to see how they navigate the ups and downs of marriage with their respective spouses. Another compelling aspect of the novel is the side story of Fanny Bertram and her brother William’s secret, which is that he’s a homosexual. When Fanny tells her husband, Edward, his response is the typical, expected response for this period. But I was so happy to see Fanny stand up for her values and brother. Seeing Edward struggle to understand his wife’s reactions and reasons was also enjoyable. Fanny’s letter at the end was beautiful, too. The line where she says she doesn’t understand and still loves him is absolutely perfect. It’s the whole point of the LGBTQ+ movement; people don’t need to understand or like it but give us our space. But that’s asking too much.
I’m definitely interested in reading the next novel in the series and seeing how Juliet and Jonathan’s friendship (or relationship) grows!