Title: The Murder of Mr. Wickham
Author: Claudia Gray
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery / Retelling
Length: 400 pages
Release Date: May 3, 2022
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Recommended for fans of: Jane Austen
Content Warnings: murder, child death, sexual assault, homophobia
A summer house party turns into a whodunit when Mr. Wickham, one of literature’s most notorious villains, meets a sudden and suspicious end in this mystery featuring Jane Austen’s leading literary characters.
The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a house party, 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. The unlikely pair must put aside their own poor first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced to hang.
I was very intrigued when I learned about this book. An Agatha Christie-style murder mystery featuring Jane Austen characters written by one of my favorite science fiction writers? I was cautiously optimistic by this colliding of worlds, and luckily, it paid off.
Claudia Gray skillfully captured the tone of Jane Austen’s writing and the essence of her characters. I love the way she imagined the main couples of Austen’s works coming together for an ill-fated house party. No one is too sad to be rid of Mr. Wickham permanently, but everyone is on edge knowing a murderer is among them. Gray’s original characters Juliet Tilney and Jonathan Darcy delight as they sneak around for clandestine meetings…to solve the crime. I have my fingers crossed for a sequel reuniting those two. And I appreciate the sensitive neurodivergent representation in the young Mr. Darcy.
This definitely falls into the cozy mystery category. I would have liked a little more suspense with a killer on the loose; instead, the murder investigation sometimes to a backseat to other Regency-era pursuits, like a ball (NOT that I am complaining about the ball scene). That being said, I did not guess the murderer, and I had fun trying to put all the clues together even though I hoped for a few more thrills.
If you are a Jane Austen fan, I think you will really like this book! I have only read Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Northanger Abbey; so I naturally was less suspicious of the characters I was already familiar with. I think I would have enjoyed this a bit more if I had completed reading Jane Austen’s oeuvre beforehand, but it inspired me to pick up my next classic sooner rather than later!
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the gifted eARC.