So here’s the book which got me curious enough to reread Pride and Prejudice which, as it turned out, was lovely. The Murder of Mr Wickham is definitely a who-done-it taking place at Donwell Abbey. the estate of George and Emma (Woodhouse) Knightly. The Knightly’s are having a large two-week house party with old friends and relatives of the area and Wickham (P&P) turns up. Wickham is decidedly unwelcome, so it’s not a good sign. But proprieties must be observed so he’s invited inside which puts almost everyone on edge. (And “everyone” here includes a smattering of characters from Austen’s oeuvre.)
The Murder of Mr Wickham
By Claudia Gray
2022 / (387 pgs)
Read by Billie Fulford-Brown 12h 3m
Rating: B+ / a YA who-done-it spin on a classic
In the 20+ years since we saw them in Pride and Prejudice, Mr (George) Wickham (P&P) and his young wife Lydia (Bennett) had a daughter, Susanna, both of whom later died. Susanna had been beloved by the Darby family. But Wickham continued to get get into trouble of escalating magnitude with investment management. He now has many enemies but doesn’t really care. It would seem he actually enjoys the power. The man truly was and is a villain.
Elizabeth (Bennett) and Frederick Darby are happily married with two children and living at Pemberley. Jane (Bennet) married Mr. Bingley and other names come up. Fanny and her husband Bertam (of Mansfield Park) are houseguests of the Knightly’s. This part is very nicely done.
So, in true Agatha Christie form, there are many suspects and a fairly twisted plot, clues to find and with lots of background to be dug up.
The awkward Jonathan Darcy (son of Elizabeth and Darby) is age 20 or so while and very bright Juliette Tilney (the daughter of Catherine and Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey) is about 17. These two are the main characters who become partners in amateur sleuthery.
In the middle of the first night, Jonathan hears Juliette screaming and finds her in the gallery along with the dead body of Mr. Wickham. Jonathan checks the grounds. The Constable is called but becuase he seems to be very biased against the household help, Jonathan and Juliette continue to investigate. And it’s seriously improper for Regency Era young ladies so the two are quite circumspect.
This is definitely a young adult novel – I’d say 14 to 18-year old girls, most likely. But older fans of Jane Austen might enjoy it. I did, although toward the end I got a bit tired of it. I loved Nancy Drew at age 10 jumping to Agatha Christie at about age 17. The Murder of Mr Wickham might have been fun when I was 14. The history is more for the older crowd, but the romance is definitely in the 14-year old range. The “Crime/Who-Done-It” part is maybe for 12-year olds.