cover image The Late Mrs. Willoughby

The Late Mrs. Willoughby

Claudia Gray. Vintage, $17 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-593-31383-1

Gray’s second whodunit featuring characters from across the Jane Austen universe (after 2022’s The Murder of Mr. Wickham) is another superior blend of humor and detection. Jonathan Darcy, the son of Pride and Prejudice’s Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, and Juliet Tilney, the daughter of Northanger Abbey’s Catherine and Henry Tilney, met in the previous installment, when they teamed up to solve a homicide and found themselves fighting mutual attraction. The amateur sleuths get another murder to crack when they’re both guests at the Devonshire home of Sense and Sensibility’s John Willoughby, a former schoolmate of Darcy’s. Despite that connection, Darcy is not fond of his host, who bullied him at school. The unexpected reunion with Tilney, who recognizes the shy Darcy’s hidden depths, improves matters, but the get-together becomes fraught after the arrival of Sense and Sensibility’s Marianne Brandon, who has a past with Willoughby. Things get worse when Willoughby’s wife, Sophia, whom he’d married for her dowry, dies after drinking some poisoned port. Gray makes her endearing leads’ sleuthing both plausible and entertaining while evoking the wit and feel of Austen’s classic novels. Admirers of P.D. James’s Death Comes to Pemberley will be delighted. (May)