cover image Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

Val McDermid. Grove, $25 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2301-5

Scottish crime writer McDermid (Cross and Burn) adeptly reworks Jane Austen's Gothic satire for the modern audiences. A homeschooled minister's daughter bored by the "narrow confines" of the Dorset countryside and her "deeply average and desperately dull" family, Cat is given her break when her neighbors invite her as their guest to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. There, Cat befriends the needy Bella Thorpe who fancies Cat's brother and meets the captivating Henry Tilney, with his "heroic" face and "luxuriant honey-blond hair." Drama ensues. "When she looked back on that first meeting, Cat would wonder whether she should have been more wary of a man who began their acquaintance with such a blatant lie. For there was nothing gentle about what followed." As Cat gets acquainted with Eleanor, Henry's sister, she secures an invitation to their family home, the enchanting Northanger Abbey, a mansion of possible secrets that stirs the darkest recesses of Cat's overworked imagination. Following Austen's storyline but diverging in distinctive ways of her own, McDermid captures the naivete of the protagonist of Austen's prose, though at times her teenage characters come off as contrived in their language and behavior. Rife with conflicts of love, gossip, misunderstandings, and updates on social media, it is an accessible and enjoyable read, especially rewarding for young readers as a gateway into appreciating the classics. Agent: Jane Gregory, Gregory & Company. (Apr.)