One of my most anticipated books this month was The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray. It’s the Jane Austen-inspired cozy mystery I never knew I needed, featuring some of her best-known characters as well as brand new faces. I was thrilled to get an early copy of the book, and now that it’s out, I hope everyone will enjoy it as much as I did.
Special thanks to Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose, and Vintage Anchor Books for the review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
The characters from Jane Austen’s six beloved books all join together for a house party at the Knightleys’ residence in Surrey, but things quickly go awry when Mr. Wickham shows up uninvited… and is soon found murdered. Mr. Wickham had no shortage of enemies in life, and nearly everyone in the house is a suspect. That they are all keeping secrets only adds to the mystery.
The adults aren’t the greatest investigators, so the two youngest guests take matters into their own hands. The Darcys’ eldest son Jonathan teams up with the Tilneys’ daughter Juliet to gather clues, make sense of the mess, and determine who among them is capable of murder.
It’s always a joy to see characters from different books finally get to meet on-page. Jane Austen’s six novels each stood on their own, but it’s fair to envision them all existing in one world, perhaps being friends with one another. Claudia Gray is clearly a fan of Jane Austen, and in The Murder of Mr. Wickham, she gets them all together for a friendly house party hosted by George and Emma Knightley.
As she states in the author’s note at the beginning, she arranged the books by when she imagined the events taking place, with Pride and Prejudice occurring first, in 1797-1798, and Sense and Sensibility taking place most recently, in 1818-1819. Thus, the main characters of those books range in age, and many of them have children of their own, some already of marriageable age themselves.
Due to the new timeline and the addition of new characters – such as Jonathan Darcy and Juliet Tilney – I wrote and continuously added to a chart during the first several chapters. I jotted down the names of their kids and how old everyone was and made note of new connections between people. It was all in great fun!
Before we get to the murder, I first want to talk about how much I love these characters. If you’ve read Jane Austen’s novels, you’ll see their personalities shining through here. It’s also fun to see how they all know each other: Knightley and Bertram are cousins, for example, while Darcy was a friend of Knightley’s when they were at Oxford. The new characters are also splendid and fit right in. Juliet Tilney is bold and quick-witted, yet also perceptive and kind. Jonathan Darcy is a lot like his dad, yet even more formal and not so proud.
It’s never explicitly stated, but I read Jonathan Darcy as being autistic, which I thoroughly appreciated. I have only read a handful of books featuring autistic characters, and in The Murder of Mr. Wickham, Jonathan is portrayed wonderfully. He brings unique perspective which proves to be most helpful as he and Juliet investigate the murder. I also love that Juliet accepts and understands him for who he is.
Mr. Wickham, of course, is as bad as we remember him. Worse, if you can believe it. In the years since he first tormented the Bennets, Wickham has caused strife for nearly everyone he’s come into contact with. Swindling people out of money, blackmail, causing heartache, neglect with horrific consequences – he’s not likable in the least, and it’s no great loss when he does perish. But with so many enemies, nearly everyone in the house has a motive… and enough secrets to stay suspicious.
It’s fun to follow Juliet and Jonathan as they secretly hunt for clues. They have significant constraints, it being 1820 and them being unmarried and unchaperoned. But through some eavesdropping, sneaky conversations, and light snooping, the two do amass quite a bit of evidence.
Perhaps the only downside here is the slower pacing in the middle. There is too much repetition: The readers would learn things from watching the different characters, but then would watch it rehashed as Jonathan and Juliet then discover the same things. A bit of that could have been smoothed out to make the story more to the point, faster-paced, and thus more engaged.
Even so, the ending made it all worth it. Everything comes together beautifully, with plenty of little twists and unexpected connections. I want to say more, but you’ll have to read it first!
In addition to the murder mystery, I also appreciated some of the commentary that arose between different characters regarding religion, accepting another person for who they are, and the befuddling social restrictions still present in the Regency era. Watch out for some homophobia from one character, though I do think it’s resolved fairly well by the end.
The Murder of Mr. Wickham is a delightful cozy mystery starring some of fiction’s most beloved characters. It’s an entertaining update for anyone who loves Jane Austen and mysteries alike. I, for one, hope we’ll get to see more of these characters in future books from Claudia Gray.
Get the Book
You can buy The Murder of Mr. Wickham or learn more about it at the links below – it’s available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
|The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray|
|Genre||Historical Mystery; Cozy Mystery|
|Number of Pages||400|
|Format I Read||eBook (NetGalley)|
|Original Publication Date||May 3, 2022|
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 featuring Austen’s leading literary characters.
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.
About the Author
Claudia Gray is the pseudonym of Amy Vincent. She is the writer of multiple young adult novels, including the Evernight series, the Firebird trilogy, and the Constellation trilogy. In addition, she’s written several Star Wars novels, such as Lost Stars and Bloodline. She makes her home in New Orleans with her husband Paul and assorted small dogs.