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.
“A LOUD CLAP OF THUNDER RUMBLED THROUGH THE AIR, THE HOUSE, THE GROUND ITSELF. IN THE NEXT INSTANT, RAINDROPS BEGAN TO PELT THE WINDOWS AND GROUND, STRIKING THE WINDOWPANES UNTIL THEY RATTLED.
DARCY COULD’VE CURSED ALOUD. TO JUDGE BY THE HOOFBEATS HE’D HEARD OUTSIDE EARLIER, WICKHAM HAD ARRIVED ON HORSEBACK RATHER THAN BY CARRIAGE, AND NOT EVEN THE MOST ODIOUS COMPANY WOULD BE THROWN OUT IN SUCH WEATHER.
WICKHAM RAISED AN EYEBROW, AS AWARE AS ANYONE OF THE ETIQUETTE THAT IMPRISONED HIS HOSTS. “IT SEEMS I SHALL BE STAYING FOR A WHILE.”
As an Austen fan, I desperately wanted to love this.
Bringing together Jane Austen’s beloved characters from Pride and Prejudice to Mansfield Park at a dinner party that goes awry and results in the murder of the heinous Mr. Wickham sounds ridiculously fun. Yet, Claudia Gray manages to produce the opposite.
Sold as an Austen meets Agatha Christie murder mystery, even the all-star literary cast of characters and Wickham getting his just desserts couldn’t save The Murder of Mr. Wickham from feeling like a slog.
Claudia Gray writes as if we’re not all marching towards our inevitable death with every second that passes. While I appreciate the need to give an introduction to the various Austen characters, it took far too long and removed all the suspense needed to sustain the entire novel. Rather than serving as quick SparkNotes summaries for those unfamiliar with Austen, the opening goes into so much detail about each family’s circumstances and laid bare everyone’s individual motive for killing Wickham instead of feeding it naturally into the story over time.
It takes over a quarter of the novel for Wickham to even die! As a reader, we know it’s going to happen from the title. Yet, it takes ages to finally get to it. By the time Wickham’s lifeless body was discovered and the actual murder mystery kickstarts, I was tired.
On paper, the concept of an Austen murder mystery is so exciting. Had it been written differently to fit a more fun Clue-esque murder mystery romp then it would have been terrific. Maybe even as a Modern AU of Austen’s characters! Yet, The Murder of Mr. Wickham felt too trite. Gray’s attempts at emulating an 18th century writer by using adjectives like ‘unbeknownst’ really fell flat and was awkward given the amount of liberties she took with the characters and the social values of the era. Juliet and Jonathan, sweet as they were, were just not strong enough to carry this clumsy story.
The Murder of Mr. Wickham takes ages to get off the ground, stalls immediately after Wickham’s death and spends the rest of the novel struggling to recover. In some way, I can see the sophisticated whodunit vision that Gray was going for. However, the execution is way off and just not enjoyable to read. So much time is wasted trying to juggle the multiple POVs and readers are left to suffer too much back story, too much detail that, ultimately, has no bearing on the investigation.
For period drama murder mysteries, I’ll be sticking to my gal, Agatha!