by Claudia Gray
Vintage Books (Penguin Random House), 2022. 386 pages.
Review written June 30, 2022, from my own copy.
A huge thank you to my sister Becky, who sent me this book for my birthday — such a perfect gift!
The Murder of Mr. Wickham is about a house party that brings together characters from all of Jane Austen’s novels. Emma and George Knightley are hosting the party, and they’ve invited Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, along with their oldest son Jonathan. From Sense and Sensibility, we’ve got newly married Marianne and Colonel Brandon, who it turns out is Emma’s cousin. Much to my delight, it turns out that Catherine Tilney has become a novelist, and her daughter Juliet has been invited to provide another young person. And Hartfield was being rented to tenants Captain Frederick and Anne Wentworth — but a staircase collapsed, so they’ve been invited to join the party. On top of everything, Knightley’s clerical relative Edward Bertram is coming with his wife Fanny.
So we see all these characters we know and love, a varying number of years after their marriages. But then on a dark and stormy night, Mr. Wickham turns up, and it turns out that all the characters gathered there have reasons to hate him, mostly because he’s been investing other people’s money, but for some other dark reasons as well.
So when young Juliet Tilney finds the dead body of Mr. Wickham, it turns out that one of the other guests is probably responsible. Jonathan Darcy and Juliet Tilney are the only ones without a strong motive, and they begin doing a little investigating together. The magistrate, Frank Churchill, seems to be overlooking some evidence, after all.
I found this book completely delightful, and the author even managed to pull off an ending that satisfied me. I loved the look at all these beloved characters as married couples. All of the marriages were having some strain when thrust into this difficult situation — and the specific tension in each marriage was consistent with the characters of the people involved. Claudia Gray really made me believe this is how the futures of these couples might turn out. And it was tremendous fun to read about their interactions.
This is a must-read for all Janeites.
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