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.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own, and I am writing a voluntary review.
I don’t know if anyone else got excited with crossover shows growing up, but something about my favorite characters from one show interacting with my favorite characters from another show just made me irrationally happy. This book is the grown up version of that.
A story that involved all of Austen’s most beloved characters going to a house party at Donwell Abbey together was something that I didn’t really know I needed until this book, but let me tell you, it was absolutely delightful (the fact that the narrative closely followed Agatha Christie’s style was just an added bonus). I loved how Claudia spaced the events of Austen’s books out so that they roughly took place during the year they were originally written in. It was really interesting to see that all of the heroines were at different places with their marriages, from newly married in Brandon and Marianne’s case, to happily married for more than twenty years in Darcy and Elizabeth’s case. I loved getting to see how they all ended up after the close of their original tales.
One of the top things I look for in a book that is a retelling/spinoff of a classic is how well they captured the essence of the original, and this book excelled on that point. The characters aged generally how one would expect, the way they interacted with each other was completely believable, and even the tone of the writing was on point for Austen’s style. It felt like Austen wrote a sequel. Plus their references to the original books were absolutely golden.
There were only two points that I didn’t completely love. First, some of the characters – while in keeping with their original personalities – felt a bit caricatured at different points. I noticed it especially in Edmund and Fanny Bertram. This Edmund reminded me a good deal of Mr. Collins, which I don’t remember thinking of the original, and Fanny was much more timid than I remembered. Again, it is in keeping with their characters, it just felt a bit exaggerated at times.
The second saddening point is that I wanted an epilogue. I wanted to see how all of the characters moved forward from the events of the book, and whether or not they stayed friends (or became more than friends as the case may be). This is totally a minor detail, I just care deeply about my happily-ever-afters.
Overall, this is a gem of a book. It is perfect for fans of Austen, especially if they are also fans of Agatha Christie.
Content warning: There is reference to a gay couple, as two of the characters process how they should proceed in their relationship with the couple as Christians. It’s super minor, and handled tastefully.