The Late Mrs Willoughby by Claudia Gray
Publication Date: May 16, 2023
Summary from NetGalley:
The suspenseful sequel to The Murder of Mr. Wickham, which sees Jonathan Darcy and Juliet Tilney reunited, and with another mystery to solve: the dreadful poisoning of the scoundrel Willoughby’s new wife.
Catherine and Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey are not entirely pleased to be sending their eligible young daughter Juliet out into the world again: the last house party she attended, at the home of the Knightleys, involved a murder—which Juliet helped solve. Particularly concerning is that she intends to visit her new friend Marianne Brandon, who’s returned home to Devonshire shrouded in fresh scandal—made more potent by the news that her former suitor, the rakish Mr. Willoughby, intends to take up residence at his local estate with his new bride.
Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley are thrilled that their eldest son, Jonathan—who, like his father, has not always been the most socially adept—has been invited to stay with his former schoolmate, John Willoughby. Jonathan himself is decidedly less taken with the notion of having to spend extended time under the roof of his old bully, but that all changes when he finds himself reunited with his fellow amateur sleuth, the radiant Miss Tilney. And when shortly thereafter, Willoughby’s new wife—whom he married for her fortune—dies horribly at the party meant to welcome her to town.
With rumors flying and Marianne—known to be both unstable and previously jilted by the dead woman’s newly made widower—under increased suspicion, Jonathan and Juliet must team up once more to uncover the murderer. But as they collect clues and close in on suspects, eerie incidents suggest that the killer may strike again, and that the pair are in far graver danger than they or their families could imagine.
ARC provided by Vintage Anchor via Netgalley for an honest review.
This is the second book in a series, but there should be no spoilers for either book. If you would like to read my review of the first book, The Murder of Mr Wickham, click here.
I enjoyed this second cozy mystery set in Jane Austen’s world just as much as the first one. This one is focused on the characters from Sense and Sensibility, but I really feel that you don’t need to be familiar with the source material in order to enjoy this one. I certainly didn’t. I read Sense a really long time ago, and don’t remember it at all well, but Ms Gray does a great job of explaining the backstories of all of the characters well enough that you totally understand what their motivations are.
The real joy and the central characters of these books are Jonathan Darcy and Elizabeth Tilney, the son and daughter of original Austen characters. I just love the two of them and enjoyed watching them piece the mystery together. Darcy still struggles with understanding human behavior and the social constructs of his world, but I love his commentary on it as well. He showed a lot of growth in this book, with his continued growing feelings toward Miss Tilney, and his ability to stand up for himself as well. I also like Elizabeth’s growth. She is becoming more confident in herself as well and worked hard to stay with in the social bounds of acceptable behavior and yet insert herself into the mystery. They still haven’t admitted their feelings to each other, but are beginning to admit them to themselves, hopefully the next book will see them coming together as more than friends.
All of the other characters are well fleshed out and we see much of the story from their perspectives as well. The other thing I like about these books is the imaginings of what happened to these characters after the original stories was finished. I especially liked the story between the Brandons and the ups and downs of their marriage. Willoughby is just a despicable in this story as I remember him in the first, but I did feel a tad sorry for him at times.
The mystery itself was well done. There were lots of plot twists and some red herrings. The big reveal was well done, but I thought the murderer’s motive was a tad weak. But within the confines of the society of the times, I could see it working. The pacing and the writing match the source material but with the author’s own style still shining through. The pacing was a bit slow in spots, and the storyline with the Delaford family didn’t seem necessary, but other than that I found myself engaged in the story.
If you are a fan of Jane Austen’s works I think you will find these books enjoyable. But I think people who have never read her books will still find these books quite good and it might even lead them to read the source materials which is always a good thing.