The Murder of Mr. Wickham

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It is a truth universally acknowledged (yes, even the Klingons agree) that a book appearing on the WSJ list of the best mysteries of 2022 may not be all readers' cup of tea. That's the case here.

Nevertheless, I set myself a reading project to consume all the books on that list, so it's really on me.

The book is set in 1820-ish England. The main characters are from Jane Austen novels. There's Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy (and also the titular victim, Mr. Wickham), from Pride and Prejudice; Emma and George Knightley, also Frank Churchill, from Emma; Marianne and Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility; Anne and Frederick Wentworth from Persuasion; and Fanny and Edmund Bertram from Mansfield Park. One of the primary characters here, Juliet Tilney, is the 17-year-old offspring of Catherine Tilney (nee Morland) from Northanger Abbey.

Reader, I strongly suggest you read all those novels before you read this. I had read zero of them.

Although I did watch a couple of movies, long ago… But to show you how confused I was, I "pictured" Elizabeth Darcy as Emma Thompson and Mr. Darcy has Hugh Grant. Who (now I see) were in a different Austen-based movie, Pride and Prejudice, and they didn't even get hitched in that movie.

The author, Claudia Gray, adopts (as near as I can tell) an Austen-like style throughout the book. Everyone is obsessed with appearances, etiquette, manners, propriety. Except Mr. Wickham. He turns out here to be an utter scoundrel, a blackmailer, a mountebank, a cad!

The setting is a house party at Donwell Abbey, the Knightly estate; all the principals are invited. But also showing up is Wickham, who soon meets his fate. One of the guests seems to be the perp, but who?

On the case are young Juliet and the son of Elizabeth and the elder Mr. Darcy, Jonathan. They are concerned that justice might not be done, because Frank Churchill, who's the local law, seems to be kind of willing to pin the crime on a vagabond or servant.

Eventually, the truth is revealed.

Goodreads readers: the site encourages you to rate books based on your personal reaction, so don't take my mediocre rating too seriously.