The short, spoiler-free version: Two thumbs up, very fun. Surprisingly angsty. Does justice to murder mysteries and to Jane Austen.
The longer, mostly spoiler-free version (spoils the premise and which characters are in the book from the Jane Austen canon): But where is Elinor?? I am disappointed that she only merits a couple of mentions in this book when we are in Marianne’s POV, but maybe Claudia Gray just doesn’t love her as much as I do. That’s pretty easy to do, I guess, because I love her irrationally.
Anyway, what we have here is the Knightley’s have invited people for a house party, and many familiar faces are attending: Mr. and Mrs. Darcy of Pemberley, along with their oldest son, Jonathan; Juliet Tilney, there on a first visit away from her home and family (daughter of Henry and Catherine from Northanger Abbey); Colonel and Mrs. Brandon, newly married (three months); Mr. and Mrs. Bertram (Fanny and Edmund from Mansfield Park), who in this book are cousins to Mr. Knightley on Edmund’s side; and Captain and Mrs. Wentworth, who are tenants of the Knightley’s, living in the old Woodhouse estate, Hartfield, which has recently suffered a collapsed staircase (due to negligence on the part of dearly departed Mr. Woodhouse) so they are staying in Donwell Abbey until renovations can be completed. Oh, and a surprise guest shows up: Mr. Wickham, who is unwelcome even by those few that don’t know him. Unhappily, most people in the party do know him, and most people in the party have motive for murder, as it turns out. So when Wickham is found dead by Juliet Tilney, and investigation ensues and the house party turns into a bit of a nightmare for its guests.
Claudia Gray makes the delightful decision to have Juliet and Jonathan be the main characters (though the other guests also have POVs and substantial character arcs as well), and due to certain circumstances, they agree between them that they are the only people who are for sure innocent of the crime, and together decide to form their own investigation in order to prevent the magistrate (Frank Churchill!!) from hanging an innocent servant.
There was so much good and fun stuff packed into this book. I think even people who aren’t familiar with Austen would enjoy it, but it was definitely written (with love) for people who are further along the Janeite spectrum. Beloved characters are shown later in life, and it was interesting (though not always happy) to see where she imagined all these characters ending up. Jonathan is also neurodivergent (most likely he is on the autism spectrum) and so it was really interesting to see how a neurodivergent person might have navigated life in Regency England.
Chipping Away at Mt. TBR, July 2022—Book 27/31
CBR BINGO: Snake
Even though I thoroughly disapprove of the demonization of snakes, because they’re just out there doing their snake things, being danger noodles, and just some regular non-dangerous noodles, Mr. Wickham in this context is very much a snake.