Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Gift from Mom 🙂
TYPE OF AUSTENESQUE NOVEL: Mystery/Sequel to Emma
TIME FRAME: One year after the close of Emma.
MAIN CHARACTERS: The Knightleys, Mr. Woodhouse, The Eltons, Miss Bates, The Churchills, The Westons, Harriet Martin
SYNOPSIS: While there is an abundance of happy marriages and births to celebrate in Highbury, there comes an occasion for sadness and sorrow with the death of old Mrs. Bates. The Churchills arrive in town for the funeral and Emma starts mulling over all the unanswered questions around her – are the Churchills happily married, are the Eltons facing financial difficulty, are there gypsies trespassing near Abbey Mill Farm? Then, unexpectedly (although perhaps not so unexpected for the reader) someone else is found dead. Now there are even more mysteries and intrigues for Emma and her husband to solve…
WHAT I LOVED:
- The Concept: I love Emma, at times I name it as my favorite Jane Austen novel. I love Highbury – Miss Bates, Harriet, Mr. Woodhouse, such a marvelous cast of characters! I love the idea of traveling back to Highbury to see how all our old friends are faring, to see all the newlyweds and newborns, to see what new developments are taking place 🙂 And yes, if any of Jane Austen’s novels are primed for a murder mystery, it is Emma.
- Our Dear Couple: It was so heartwarming to see the contentment and congruency between Emma and Mr. Knightley. I love how there were still some little rubs (Mr. Knightley having to travel to and from Donwell everyday) and obstacles (Mr. Woodhouse!) for Emma and Knightley to deal with. I enjoyed seeing Mr. Knightley and Emma share some alone time at the end of each day and discuss their activities and endeavors with each other. And when the mystery begins to baffle Mr. Knightley, I love how he finally came to appreciate Emma’s overactive imagination and asked his wife for assistance in solving they murder.
- Excellent Characterization: The inhabitants of Highbury are charming and distinct, and Victoria Grossack did an admirable job of maintaining and developing each characters’ individual traits, quirks, and manner of speaking. Seeing Harriet overwhelmed and overtired with twins, Mrs. Elton competitive and vulgar, and Mr. Woodhouse afraid to take his daily constitutions outside all worked brilliantly! I greatly enjoyed seeing these beloved characters rendered so accurately and admirably (for the most part…)
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
- Long Exposition: The author spent a lot of time recounting the events that took place in Emma (which I know was to help readers who didn’t read Emma understand what is going on!). But at the same time, the first crime happened one of third of the way into the novel, and the first murder happened just a little over half way through. It was a long wait to feel intrigued…
- A Surprise Ending: I do love it when a mystery stumps me and I am unable to guess or predict the culprit, but I must admit to feeling some dissatisfaction in this case. I was disappointed with who the perpetrator was, what they did right before they were apprehended, and how the revelation came about. While the author tied it in neatly and cunningly to some passages and events from Emma, I found it difficult to believe that this character would do such deeds. In addition, the overall tone of the conclusion with its shocking and unconvincing surprises – for me, at least – felt unsettling and depressing.
While this is perhaps not my favorite Austen-inspired murder mystery (those would be the novels by Stephanie Barron, Carribe Bebris, and Tracy Kiely), I nevertheless was happy to visit with this “small band of true friends” and once again delight in the charms of Highbury.