What’s not to enjoy in this creative Jane Austen fan-fic, multi-verse edition, where you get to say goodbye to the original Regency romance scoundrel? Ride-or-die Austenites will appreciate the joining of so many beloved characters
No, the title is not a tease – this really is a story about Mr. Wickham’s murder, which should be reason alone for any Austen fan to pick it up. If you aren’t thrilled at the idea of the original Regency romance scoundrel being thrown from a tall building (not a spoiler), then we may have too many differences to continue this relationship.
Set around a house party hosted by Emma and Mr. Knightly, The Murder of Mr. Wickham takes a trip down memory lane by creating essentially an Austen multi-verse. With many of the major characters from Austen’s other books filling out the guest list, Claudia Gray has done a wonderful job connecting so many varied stories as well as giving almost all of them a very solid reason to throttle dear Wickham.
When said scoundrel shows up unannounced to the house party, with a doozy of a rainstorm hot on his heels and forcing him to stay, no one is particularly surprised when he turns up dead. Well, they are outwardly surprised because this is the land of manners, but you know every one of them was thinking “about damn time..”. Because almost everyone has been given a motive, the only two with legitimate alibis are the youngsters – the Darcy’s eldest son Jonathan and Juliet Tilney, daughter of Catherine and Henry visiting from Northanger Abbey. As an additional twist on the mystery, we also get the coming-of-age bit where Juliet gets to tackle drawing the epically rigid and awkward Jonathan further out into the real world.
The creativity that went into this novel is fantastic, and Gray does a good job with the characterization and language. Especially impressive is conveying the rift between the Darcy’s, that showed them as real people who have challenges but without sacrificing Elizabeth’s wit and Darcy’s super-secret emotions. Managing to weave Wickham into the lives of characters he had zero reason to be connected to in the canon was also done well, though some are a little threadbare – Fanny’s motive specifically is one of the characterization misses, as it is so unlikely for the time period that it can be tough to take seriously.
In addition to the handful of small details that are less believable, the overall plot structure also seems to suffer from the effort put into other areas. The plot is a bit slow in the middle, and the mystery doesn’t create much feeling of actual “whodunit”. There are some great clues thrown in, but too many red herrings, too few real clues that move anything forward, and too many suspects that never seem to get whittled down end up muddying the waters. You never get that “oh, maybe!” moment that you grasp for in a good mystery that keeps you both wondering and guessing. This one kept me wondering, but kind of knocked down the fun scale by never giving me enough to guess.
Ultimately, a great cozy read that Austen fans will appreciate, though the plot weakness may make it less appealing to others who aren’t anchored in by the character connection.
#themurderofmrwickham #netgalley #claudiagray
The Murder of Mr. Wickham
May 3, 2022
Vintage Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Vintage
Historical Fiction, Crime, Jane Austen Fan Fiction
Thank you to NetGalley and Vintage for an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.