The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray (2022)
Fiction | Mystery | Historical
From New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray—a summer house party turns into a thrilling whodunit when Mr. Wickham, one of literature’s most notorious villains, meets a sudden and suspicious end in this brilliantly imagined 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. In a tantalizing fusion of Austen and Christie, the unlikely pair must put aside their own poor first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced to hang.
Expected Release Date: May 03, 2022
pooled ink Review:
Thank you to the publisher & NetGalley for sending me a copy to review!
It’s been ages since I’ve posted a review outside of my one-line reviews series! Although I enjoy that quick mini-review style (plus it’s all I really have time for these days), it does feel good to be able to take a moment to write a nice, long, rambling review for a book again. Anyway, onto the book!
Right away the title caught my attention. The Murder of Mr. Wickham?! Yes, I would love to read that please and thank you. No one likes Mr. Wickham (from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice) but he takes on a whole new level of UGH in this book so I don’t think a single character or reader will be upset when he turns up dead. Rather the sigh of relief was palpable. The moment Wickham set foot upon the page I immediately wanted to throw him back off it. Simply, the worst.
So let’s jump back a moment to the beginning.
I admit I somewhat struggled in the beginning to a) recall who’s who and b) remember what I just recalled haha. I’m a fan of Jane Austen’s books and of the various movie/TV adaptations, but even so I’m terrible with names so at first I had a bit of a hard time trying to put names to faces (by faces I mean I used actors from the movie/TV adaptations as a reference because I’m seriously terrible with names but decent with faces haha!). It also threw me off for a moment because the female characters are all married thus have different surnames which my brain had trouble remembering (even in real life I have a hard time using a friend’s new married name lol). This may or may not be a puzzle for you and even if you’ve never read/seen any Jane Austen story at all you can still totally enjoy this book for the murder mystery that it is although knowing the characters certainly adds an extra thrill.
Going along with this, the beginning may feel a bit…overwhelming at first. The book is set after all of Austen’s novels have already taken place so I think Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice) have been married for about twenty years and Marianne has been married to Colonel Brandon (Sense & Sensibility) for just under a year? Don’t worry, the book includes an author’s note with a timeline for you. Anyway, at the start of this book we find out that Emma (now Mrs. Knightly; from Emma) is holding a house party and who’s invited? Well, all of our favorites! The main couples from all of Jane Austen’s books (except for the Tilneys and instead of Elinor we get her younger sister Marianne) have been invited along with the Darcys’ son, Jonathan, and the Tilneys’ daughter, Juliet. (The Tilneys are from Northanger Abbey).
Jonathan and Juliet are original characters crafted for this book whom develop a newfound friendship and also play a pair of sleuths (As Austen’s novels are romantic in nature, it is natural to wonder if there is romance in this book as well to which I say perhaps. By this I mean that we get to see various stages of love between couples from the very very beginning signs of it between Jonathan and Juliet to marital loyalty, strife, etc. of different forms amongst the others but romance is by no means the topic, major plot point, nor genre of this particular book).
ANYWAY, everything at first is rather overwhelming (to me anyway haha) because it alternates POVs constantly (it didn’t take long though to get the hang of it and begin following the rhythm easily) plus, as I mentioned earlier, I was busy trying to wrack my brain to recall who’s who and their backstories (for which you might have a quicker time falling into the story if you don’t try so hard haha). There are a lot of characters to keep track of along with their updated backstories (because this book is set after all of the books, remember? And long after for some of them so a lot has transpired.) and even the characters don’t all know one another so they’re trying to remember names and backgrounds and get acquainted with one another. Typical start of a party chaos basically haha. Though it might seem a touch overwhelming at the start, it was the same for the characters and felt rather appropriate for such a large gathering of people with varying levels of acquaintance to one another.
THEN ENTERS MR. WICKHAM.
He enters with a theatrical lack of decorum that has even those at the party who do not know him gaping and shaking with disapproval. BAH! I doubt I need to clarify that he was not invited to the house party. But alas appear he does and so for a while, along with the characters, we must endure his awful presence because a storm has befallen them and it’s too rude and dangerous to cast him out toot sweet into the rain. (I mean, I didn’t see a problem with it but then again I’m a modern day American and we tend to have a problem keeping our opinions to ourselves haha). Wickham goes around swindling and blackmailing and being all around awful, his presence also brings about hints of other distressing things that have occurred to the main cast of characters whether in the past or the present. MORE MYSTERY! Huzzah!
Eventually Wickham’s body is found murdered (don’t you dare try and suggest saying this is a spoiler haha) and too many guests are lacking in alibis and overflowing with motives. Frank Churchill (from Emma) is brought in as the, erm, perhaps not wholly qualified investigating magistrate and thus we get down to the whodunit. Two inquisitive young sleuths, one magistrate who is at least trying no matter his experience or lack thereof, and a house teeming with servants and guests trapped beneath suspicion.
There was a lot to enjoy with this book, I must admit. It was a lot of fun revisiting Austen’s characters and getting a glimpse into what came after the ends of their books (at least Claudia Gray’s version of what happened) as well as watching them meet and become embroiled in a scandalous murder mystery. Juliet Tilney is a free spirited young woman who often questions the rules of propriety while Jonathan Darcy not only lives by the rules but clutches them closely to help him navigate the befuddling world of society. Watching the two get to know one another as they puzzle over the murder of a man beloved by none was fun and I think it was a good idea to bring in two new characters to take the lead of the story rather than choose any of the returning characters and risk too much creative license with such a massive fandom watching closely. That being said, I do think the portrayal of Austen’s characters within the setting of this plot was done exceedingly well.
There are lots of buried secrets sprinkled throughout the cast and story that not only add to the murder mystery plot line, but the mysterious atmosphere of the book as a whole. It was so infuriating (in the way a good mystery tends to be) having the various characters hint and tease at their burdens BUT TELL ME NONE OF THEM. No, I had to be patient and wait and gather whatever crumbs they let slip.
Mysteries can be quite fun reads and this one was happily no exception. I can definitely see it becoming a movie and I would absolutely watch it.
The Murder of Mr. Wickham weaves together a familiar cast of Jane Austen’s heroes and drops them in the midst of a house party plagued by poor weather, closely clutched secrets, and the murder of a man whom was friend to none. Alibis in short supply and motives overflowing, Juliet Tilney and Jonathan Darcy take up the case, daring to toe the boundaries of propriety in the name of justice. This is a whodunit written with the clever acuity of an Agatha Christie novel and spun with the alluring stories of Jane Austen’s characters. In other words, don’t pass this book by and be prepared to find yourself staying up late into the night devouring each page!
P.S. I don’t care that this wasn’t a romance novel, I’m 100% shipping Juliet and Jonathan. That paired with the fact that Juliet receives several invitations for future visits from her new acquaintances has me absolutely seeing the possibility for more stories. The mystery of Mr. Wickham’s murder has been resolved quite satisfactorily, but I do wonder if it will be left up to my own imagination what comes next for Juliet and if it will include a marriage to Jonathan (my imagination says yes and since there is no official book contradicting such I’m going with it and will hear no opposite opinion! haha).
Meet Claudia Gray!
Claudia Gray is not my real name. I didn’t choose a pseudonym because my real name is unpleasant (it isn’t), because I’d always dreamed of calling myself this (I haven’t) or even because I’m hiding from the remnants of that international diamond-smuggling cartel I smashed in 2003 (Interpol has taken care of them). In short, I took a pseudonym for no real reason whatsoever. Sometimes this is actually the best reason to do things.
I live in New Orleans. So far, in life, I’ve been a disc jockey, a lawyer, a journalist and an extremely bad waitress, just to name a few. I especially like to spend time traveling, hiking, reading and listening to music. More than anything else, I enjoy writing.