Jonathan Darcy and Juliet Tilney, amateur sleuths and the children of two of Jane Austen’s most beloved couples, return to solve another mystery together in The Late Mrs. Willoughby by Claudia Gray.
Jonathan Darcy is attempting to fit in at a house party thrown by his former schoolmate and bully, Mr. Willoughby. Jonathan’s idiosyncrasies and difficulty with social situations made him an easy target at school, so he’s not exactly thrilled to see Willoughby again. However, he’s desperate to prove to his parents, Pride and Prejudice’s iconic Lizzy and Darcy, that he can make and maintain friendships.
Willoughby is newly wed, although the marriage is already strained. His wife, Sofia, has realized her husband only married her for her fortune, and she is suffering from the simultaneous insults of his illegitimate child with a nearby village woman and his still-burning infatuation with his neighbor, Marianne Brandon.
Juliet, the daughter of Catherine and Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey, is visiting Marianne, having befriended her during the first installment in the series, The Murder of Mr. Wickham. Marianne is still traumatized by the events of that book, but she’s doing her best to reenter society, even if that means attending a dinner party with her much loathed former beau and his new wife. Unfortunately, it’s at this very dinner that Mrs. Willoughby dies of poisoning, right in front of Juliet and Jonathan.
Jonathan and Juliet once again set out to find the killer. Jonathan’s analytical mind and Juliet’s facility for observing and understanding others make them a powerful crime-busting pair, despite being confined by the social strictures of their time. They quickly realize that Mrs. Willoughby may not have been the intended victim, given that her husband has no shortage of enemies.
Gray firmly establishes that Jonathan is autistic in The Late Mrs. Willoughby, having hinted at such in The Murder of Mr. Wickham. While Juliet does not always understand his quirks, her easy acceptance of them is heartwarming. This also allows romance to begin slowly blossoming between the pair, which will thrill fans who picked up on Jonathan and Juliet’s chemistry in the first book.
The familiar conventions of Austen’s world, cameos from beloved characters and a potential new romance will make The Late Mrs. Willoughby a sure hit for historical mystery fans.
With cameos from beloved Jane Austen characters and a potential new romance, The Late Mrs. Willoughby is sure to be a hit for historical mystery fans.
Jacqueline Winspear, author of the beloved Maisie Dobbs series, has created a new character for readers to admire. Part Agatha Christie, part “The Equalizer,” The White Lady follows Elinor White, a former World War II operative unafraid to leverage her past to help those who cannot help themselves.
It’s 1947, and Elinor has settled into a home in the British countryside, one granted to her by the government as thanks for her classified service to the nation. Her bucolic life is missing one thing, though: the sense of purpose that came with her wartime career. But when Elinor sees her neighbors Jim and Rose Mackie being violently harassed by Jim’s criminal family, she decides to use her skills to protect them.
The White Lady alternates between Elinor’s quest to bring down the Mackie crime family in 1947, her work during World War II and her initiation into espionage as a Belgian teenager during World War I. Winspear’s writing is especially effective when conveying the incredible danger Elinor and her sister, Cecily, face as they work to undermine the German military, and the wrenching moral decisions that come with such work.
The traumas of the past, especially the difficulty of leaving violence behind, are constant refrains throughout the novel. Elinor is haunted by the premature loss of her childhood innocence and, eventually, her family, while Jim and Rose struggle to escape Jim’s criminal birthright. Elinor’s quest to bring down the Mackie family is prompted by her affection for Jim, Rose and especially their young daughter, Susie, but it also provides her with a way to seek absolution for the terrible things she did as a spy.
The White Lady doesn’t shy away from dark subjects, and historical mystery readers searching for a bit of grit and a complex main character will admire its uncompromising storytelling.
Historical mystery readers searching for a complex main character will admire the uncompromising storytelling of Jacqueline Winspear’s The White Lady.
Veronica Speedwell returns in A Sinister Revenge, the eighth mystery in a series best described as Agatha Christie in the world of Victorian science and natural history.
Natural historian and butterfly hunter Veronica has been separated from Stoker, a fellow scientist who had become her sleuthing partner and lover. But Stoker’s brother Tiberius, Lord Templeton-Vane, reunites the couple by giving them a dangerous new case to solve.
In his youth, Tiberius ran with a group of students who called themselves the Seven Sinners, but then tragedy struck at his family’s Devon estate when one member of their party died in an accidental fall while trying to claim a fossil from a cliffside. During the following years, two other members also met an early demise, and now a threatening letter has Tiberius believing that they may all have been murdered by one of their own—and that he might be the next victim. In a Christie-esque conceit, Tiberius invites the remaining members of the Seven Sinners to an elaborate house party, where he plans to confront them and, hopefully, where Veronica and Stoker will uncover the murderer.
As the house party unfolds, it becomes apparent that the history of the Seven Sinners is more complex than Tiberius let on, with secret affairs and bitter jealousies complicating the past. Even as Veronica untangles the web of complex relationships, she struggles to reconcile Stoker’s distance from their own romantic partnership. As usual, Veronica’s keen observations and sharp wit contrast with her own occasional lack of self-awareness (especially when it comes to romance), making for a delightful read. Longtime readers of the series will be pleased to see regulars such as intrepid reporter J.J. Butterworth and ingenious chef Julien d’Orlande return. But ultimately, Raybourn’s masterful entanglement of Veronica and Stoker’s love story with the mystery at hand makes A Sinister Revenge a standout entry in an already excellent series.
Deanna Raybourn’s masterful balance between romance and mystery makes A Sinister Revenge a standout entry in an already excellent series.
Elly Griffiths’ third Harbinder Kaur mystery finds the detective inspector eager to prove herself after relocating from West Sussex to London. Her latest case begins when a reunion at the posh Manor Park School in Chelsea results in politician Garfield Rice’s murder.
Griffiths alternates between Harbinder’s perspective and that of Cassie Fitzgerald, a former student at Manor Park who was a member of “The Group,” a clique of popular students. When they meet for their 21st class reunion, there is a fair amount of tension. Some of the friends have moved abroad, others have found fame in writing and popular music and some have gone into politics. Cassie is the odd duck: She became a police officer and now works under Harbinder.
This makes Cassie’s dark secret even more shocking: She committed a murder at age 18, and she can’t help but wonder if Garfield’s death is related. Harbinder, of course, doesn’t know that one of her subordinates is a killer, but readers can count on her to methodically unbury the past and untangle the crimes of the present.
The small, intimate collection of suspects makes this mystery perfect for fans of Agatha Christie: Rather than a wide-ranging hunt for a killer, Bleeding Heart Yard feels cozy and local. However, the book is also filled with unreliable narrators, as members of The Group struggle to determine which of their memories are real since they may have been tainted by time or trauma or lost to time all together. Old diaries offer clues, but many of the characters have the same amount of questions as Harbinder herself.
While this book is accessible for newcomers to the series, established fans will be especially pleased with how Harbinder grows as a character and becomes more comfortable in her own skin. Harbinder is a lesbian, and in previous installments, her sexuality was a source of tension, especially when it came to her conservative family. But living in a larger urban environment allows her far more freedom, and she is able to explore a liberated life on her own terms.
Solid plotting, an intrepid sleuth and a group of well-developed suspects make this whodunit a must-read.
Detective Inspector Harbinder Kaur has to investigate one of her subordinates in Elly Griffiths’ must-read blend of thriller and police procedural.
Inspired by true events, The Half Life of Valery K takes readers to 1963 Soviet Russia, where a secret project threatens nuclear disaster.
Scientist Valery Kolkhanov has spent years in a Siberian gulag focused only on his own day-to-day survival. When he is summoned for a special assignment, he assumes it will be his execution, but instead he finds himself in the strange community of City 40. The top-secret city is surrounded by a forest ravaged by radiation, and Valery’s former mentor wants him to assist her in studying the long-term effects of radiation on the environment.
Elated to be free of the gulag, Valery embraces his assignment at first, but eventually he begins to suspect he’s not being told the truth about City 40. The radiation appears to be much more severe than it’s said to be, and Valery believes the residents of the city and potentially the entire Soviet Union are in danger.
Valery’s every move is monitored by KGB agent Konstantin Shenkov, an enigmatic man who becomes an unlikely ally. As Valery uncovers more secrets surrounding City 40, he and Shenkov find themselves drawn together in a forbidden attraction.
Natasha Pulley expertly reveals the mysteries of City 40 piece by piece, along with the secrets Valery himself is keeping. Valery knows his feelings for Shenkov would get him thrown back in the gulag if discovered, and the two men play a dangerous game hiding both their relationship and their investigation from the authorities. Valery is also something of an unreliable narrator, often questioning his own sanity as the events around him become more bizarre. Readers will be forced to question whether his insights into City 40 are accurate or the result of a mind plagued by nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Based on the Kyshtym nuclear disaster of 1957, The Half Life of Valery K is a compelling window into a terrifying and lesser-known aspect of the Cold War. With unexpected twists, a paranoid atmosphere and a fascinating narrator, this novel is a superb work of historical fiction as well as an excellent mystery.
With unexpected twists, a paranoid atmosphere and a fascinating narrator, The Half Life of Valery K is a superb work of historical fiction and an excellent mystery.
Megan Miranda knows how to land a twist, and her latest thriller demonstrates that to dizzying effect. Set in an isolated and hazardous pocket of the Appalachian Mountains, The Last to Vanish elegantly builds a near-gothic atmosphere as it tells the story of an inn with a troubled past and the locals who are keeping deadly secrets.
Abigail Lovett loves her quiet job at the Passage Inn in Cutter’s Pass, North Carolina. The inn butts up against the Appalachian Trail, catering to guests looking to lose themselves in nature. Unfortunately, Cutter’s Pass has a dark history of people becoming lost for good. Decades ago, a group of college students, dubbed the Fraternity Four, vanished while on a hike. Over the years, two women also disappeared. Most recently, a journalist named Landon West set out to write about the strange history of Cutter’s Pass only to disappear himself. Now Landon’s brother, Trey, has arrived at the Passage Inn to try and find clues to his brother’s whereabouts. Most of the town’s residents attribute the mysterious goings-on to accidents on the trail, but Landon’s disappearance unsettled Abby, and now she’s starting to wonder if they are all connected.
A pervasive sense of unease runs throughout The Last to Vanish, whether Abby is facing the dangers of the mountains or the sneaking suspicion that the locals are monitoring her every move. The Passage Inn is a character in itself with quirks, secrets and dark basement rooms. Facing all these strange happenings at what used to be her comforting, calm place of work further spooks Abby: The phones keep going down, and one of her co-workers quits with only a brief note explaining her departure.
As the novel progresses, Miranda slowly gives readers more information about Abby, which only leads to more questions: Where did she come from before she, rather suddenly, arrived in Cutter’s Pass, and why did she decide to live and work at the inn in the first place? She’s not quite an unreliable narrator but rather one whose personal details are revealed with careful precision by Miranda, who ensures that Abby is fascinating, not frustrating.
A perfectly balanced cross between a cold-case mystery and a psychological thriller, The Last to Vanish‘s expert plotting and surprising twists will delight readers.
Megan Miranda's latest is a perfectly balanced cross between a cold-case mystery and a psychological thriller that features a fascinating amateur sleuth.
The Drowning Sea is an atmospheric procedural starring a detective at a crossroads in her life.
Retired Long Island homicide detective Maggie D’arcy is spending the summer in West Cork, Ireland, with her Irish boyfriend, his son and her teenage daughter. They vacation in the picturesque village of Ross Head, but the idyllic trip is cut short when human remains wash up on the shore near their cottage. The body is that of Polish immigrant Lukas Adamik, whose disappearance months earlier led many in Ross Head to assume that he had returned to Poland. But when the police determine that the body was only recently deceased and rule out an accident or suicide, the mystery of where Lukas has been—and what happened to him—consumes the small community.
In addition to that, Maggie’s hostess, Lissa Crawford, asks her to look into the disappearance of her childhood governess, Dorothea. The Crawfords were once the owners of the local manor, Rosscliffe House, which Lissa sold after her family was beset by unfortunate circumstances. Chief among them was her father’s tragic suicide on the cliffs, after which Dorothea vanished. As Maggie investigates what happened to Dorothea, she realizes her case may be linked to the murder of Lukas.
The previous two Maggie d’Arcy mysteries have been set in both Ireland and Long Island, but The Drowning Sea completely immerses readers in Ross Head. Author Sarah Stewart Taylor creates a rich and slightly gothic atmosphere, with the ocean beating against the treacherous, wind-swept cliffs as Rosscliffe House looms over it all. Despite this subtle shift in tone, The Drowning Sea continues the series’ exploration of the inner life of its main character: Maggie becomes increasingly obsessed with the case, her dogged detective work serving as a distraction from the reasons for her retirement and the question of whether to uproot her and her daughter’s lives by permanently moving to Ireland.
The Drowning Sea‘s gorgeous backdrop and stalwart sleuth will satisfy and impress mystery readers, particularly fans of traditional whodunits.
The Drowning Sea's gorgeous setting and stalwart sleuth will satisfy and impress mystery readers, particularly fans of traditional whodunits.
If you’re a Jane Austen fan, chances are you’ve always wanted to see your favorite couples from her various novels interact with one another. (Indeed, reams of fan fiction have been written on this very topic.) But what if you could do that and watch them deal with a murderer in their midst? In Claudia Gray’s The Murder of Mr. Wickham, the titular cad is killed during a house party at George and Emma Knightley’s estate. It’s up to Catherine and Henry Tilney’s daughter, Juliet, and Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy’s son, Jonathan, to catch the culprit. We talked to Gray about revisiting Austen’s most beloved characters in their married lives and why George Wickham was her first and only choice for her novel’s victim.
What is your favorite Jane Austen novel? Pride and Prejudice: the answer everyone gives, probably, and for very good reasons. Name another novel written more than 200 years ago that still gets read regularly, by nonacademics, purely for pleasure. I don’t think there is one, at least not in the English language. That said, I truly love all her novels, and the one that perhaps intrigues me the most is Mansfield Park. The one that moves me the most is Persuasion. And I have to stop now, because you didn’t ask for a treatise about my feelings regarding all six novels.
What made you want to write a mystery set in Austen’s world? It was reading Death Comes to Pemberley and . . . not digging it. I love P.D. James, so my anticipation for the book was sky-high. It comes out, I get it, and I discover that the murder victim in that book is (SPOILER ALERT) Denny, a minor character in Pride and Prejudice. My first thought was: Who cares who killed Denny? None of the beloved characters were suspects, as I had assumed they would be. So I had this big crash of disappointment that had less to do with the quality of James’ writing (which is, of course, superb) and more to do with my assumptions. I imagined the book I wanted to read, which then became the book I wanted to write.
How did you create and then navigate the conflicts between the members of each couple? For the most part, the conflicts the couples face call upon issues they dealt with before they married, but in new ways. Darcy and Elizabeth are burdened with grief, but that grief is worsened by Darcy’s refusal to reveal his emotions. Emma’s been chastised by Knightley for her meddling, so how does she react when he feels obliged to intervene in someone else’s life? Colonel Brandon and Marianne have yet to work out how much his past will determine their future, and so on. They’re all the same people they were during courtship, and though they’re older and wiser, they can still fall prey to subtler versions of their previous mistakes.
How did you stay true to Austen’s voice? I’m tremendously flattered that the voice rang true to you. I didn’t mimic period style exactly, but I tried to let that be the guide as much as possible—which involved a ton of rereading Austen’s work, some reading of other Regency-era novels, reading some of the Austen family letters and watching my favorite adaptations.
Which character was the most fun to write? Were there any who were surprisingly challenging? The most fun to write were Elizabeth Darcy, of course, and Marianne, as well as the new characters of Jonathan Darcy and Juliet Tilney. Most challenging was Fanny from Mansfield Park: Her personality is naturally timid, her moods fragile, her responses often passive. She is the antithesis of what we look for in a main character in modern fiction, and yet Fanny is capable of great courage when she knows herself to be right. So making her both true to her depiction in Mansfield Park and engaging to readers today was definitely a challenge.
What made you decide to make neurodivergence a part of Jonathan Darcy’s character? Honestly, that emerged from the writing process itself. At first, my only goal was for Jonathan to be more Darcy than Darcy. But as I dug into the story, I had to ask what might be driving that. Once I recognized that Jonathan might be neurodivergent, it opened up so many interesting questions about how he would navigate the Regency world. I did a lot of reading and research in the hopes that he would feel authentic on the page.
One point that was important for me to remember, though, was that neither Jonathan nor his parents—nor anyone else in the novel—will ever think of him as neurodivergent. That’s not a frame of reference any of them would have; that’s not how he would be understood in that era.
What led you to decide on Mr. Wickham being the murder victim? Were there other contenders? Wickham was the first and only candidate I considered. The victim had to be someone whom many, many people would have a motive to kill, and who incites quite as much fury as Mr. Wickham?
Will we see Juliet and Jonathan again in future books? I’m so glad you enjoyed them! It can be difficult to set new characters among known ones, but Juliet and Jonathan proved a delight to write. Rest assured, they’ll team up again.
Photo of Claudia Gray by Stephanie Knapp.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a good dinner party must be in want of a murder. In this case, it's The Murder of Mr. Wickham, the dastardly villain of Pride and Prejudice, which was bound to happen, according to author Claudia Gray.
Claudia Gray’s The Murder of Mr. Wickham is a cozy locked-room mystery set in a world populated by Jane Austen’s beloved characters.
Emma and George Knightley have decided to host a monthlong house party at their estate, Donwell Abbey, and have invited some of their closest friends: the Darcys (including their son, Jonathan), the Brandons, the Wentworths, the Bertrams and Juliet Tilney, the daughter of Northanger Abbey’s Catherine and Henry. During the first days of the party, the very-much-not-invited George Wickham makes an appearance to collect a debt from Mr. Knightley, and we quickly learn that every person in attendance has a grievance with Wickham. Austen fans will already know from Pride and Prejudice that the Darcys’ interactions with Wickham were the opposite of pleasant, and he is still up to his nefarious ways in Gray’s novel: An investment scheme has robbed some couples of their wealth, he is blackmailing Fanny Bertram, and Colonel Brandon has a particularly heartbreaking past with the scoundrel.
When Wickham is found dead one stormy night, it is apparent that someone staying or working at Donwell must have committed the crime, as the muddy roads were too impassable for a stranger to arrive. After witnessing the local magistrate’s bumbling efforts, Juliet and Jonathan form an unlikely partnership, as both are determined to solve the crime.
The Murder of Mr. Wickham is not a novel for Austen purists. The reader must accept the conceit that the characters are all acquainted (in a foreward, the author explains how she tweaked the timeline) and, furthermore, that one of the beloved characters may be a murderer. On the way to reaching the mystery’s satisfying solution, readers also get to see that all the couples still have struggles within their marriages. Those who believe Austen’s novels ended with a firm happily ever after may be dismayed by this development, while others will be fascinated by how Gray complicates the relationships between the various characters.
Readers looking for a charming mystery will adore this book. Gray captures Austen’s tone perfectly, allowing fans to step back into the Regency author’s beloved world. And despite the presence of iconic characters such as Emma Knightley and Lizzie Darcy, the newly invented characters of Jonathan and Juliet are dynamic in their own right. They quickly become adept at working together, and there is a hint that romance is on the horizon.
The Murder of Mr. Wickham will allow many Austen fans an opportunity to revisit the characters they treasure, and solve a mystery to boot.
Claudia Gray’s The Murder of Mr. Wickham is a cozy and charming mystery set in a world populated by Jane Austen’s beloved characters.
The Cage is a psychological thriller that’s tailor-made to be read in one breathless session. It’s so fast-paced and wide in scope that it feels almost cinematic.
After working late on a Sunday night, Human Resources Director Lucy Barton-Jones and recently hired attorney Shay Lambert get in the elevator to leave the headquarters of fashion empire CDMI. The power goes out, trapping them both. After a frantic 911 call, the power returns and Lucy is dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
According to Shay, Lucy had a panic attack while stranded in the elevator and killed herself. But her story doesn’t quite add up to the police, especially when they dig into Shay’s past and discover that her resume is full of omissions and lies. The story certainly doesn’t work for Ingram Barrett, CDMI’s senior vice president and general counsel, given the bad press it will bring the company. He hired Shay only months before, and he’s willing to sacrifice her rather than risk the police looking too closely at Lucy’s recent activities.
As the novel alternates between the events of the past and the present investigation, we learn how Shay came to be in the elevator that night. Shay is an unreliable narrator, and through her actions, rather than her words, it becomes apparent that her circumstances—financial, romantic and legal—are very different from what she projects. The way author Bonnie Kistler (a former attorney) portrays the contrast between what Shay tells the people around her and what the reader actually sees happening is captivating. You can never fully believe Shay, and as the mystery of Lucy’s death gains more momentum, readers are forced to rely on clues in the background to understand what happened.
Lucy’s death isn’t the only mystery here: What were Lucy and Ingram involved with that makes him so eager for the police to arrest Shay for murder? Who is Shay really, and what’s her endgame? Part locked-room mystery, part legal thriller, The Cage weaves these separate plot lines together so seamlessly that readers will be genuinely shocked by the finale. This thriller is the perfect book for readers who value mind games over violence but still want an explosive ending.
Part locked-room mystery, part legal thriller, Bonnie Kistler's The Cage is tailor-made to be read in one breathless session.
Joanna Schaffhausen’s fifth book in her Ellery Hathaway series, Last Seen Alive,focuses on the horror of its central sleuth’s past. As a child, Ellery survived being kidnapped by the notorious serial killer Francis Coben—she was the only person to ever do so. Decades later, she’s changed her name and found purpose as a police officer, but she has never escaped the nightmares about her time as Coben’s captive. Now on death row, Coben makes an offer to reveal the location of the remains of his other victims, but only to Ellery and only in an on-camera interview. She initially refuses, disgusted with Coben’s desire to manipulate her even behind bars. But when a woman is found killed in Coben’s style, Ellery realizes that he is working with someone on the outside and that their meeting will affect more than just cold cases.
This gritty police procedural doesn’t flinch at violence, but spends as much if not more time exploring its effects and how they are compounded by sensationalist media. Ellery knows she must agree to the interview but struggles to reconcile this fact with the approach of the Nancy Grace-esque broadcaster, who is desperate to conduct it. While the special purports to celebrate Ellery’s survival, the coverage focuses on the torture she endured, to the point of zooming in on Ellery’s physical scars.
Schaffhausen keeps the reader firmly in Ellery’s perspective as she follows Coben’s twisted clues, making the tension nearly unbearable. Fans of darker mysteries that don’t shy away from the gory details will enjoy this well-crafted and thoughtful whodunit.
Like Ellery, Micah Wilkes is looking to leave the past behind in Catch Her When She Falls by Allison Buccola. When Micah was in high school, her boyfriend, Alex Swift, killed her best friend, Emily Winters. Alex has spent 10 years in prison, and Micah has spent that time trying to escape being known solely as the ex-girlfriend of a murderer, a footnote in true crime history.
Alex was convicted on largely circumstantial evidence, and now a podcast is revisiting the case. Soon internet commenters are questioning her stoicism during the trial and wondering if she had something to do with the crime. When she receives threatening texts and someone breaks into her apartment, Micah starts to wonder if the media attention on Alex’s case has driven someone to harass her or if Emily’s real killer is still out there. She begins her own investigation, even as those closest to her criticize her need to unbury the past, making her feel attacked by both those she loves and those she’s never met.
Buccoladives into the anxious, painful workings of Micah’s mind as she pieces together the bits of her past that she’s locked away. Readers will find themselves doubting reality along with Micah as she questions the narrative she’s always believed about her friend’s death. While not scary, Catch Her When She Falls is wildly suspenseful and almost gothic in tone, making it the perfect book for a reader looking for thrills without any gritty or gory aspects.
Both Last Seen Alive and Catch Her When She Falls show incredible empathy for the mental and emotional toll the media takes on not only victims of a crime, but also their friends and family. It’s a humanizing view of women’s trauma that’s not always found in a genre practically built upon their pain.
These two mysteries thoughtfully examine how the media commodifies female trauma, resulting in whodunits that are equal parts thrilling and empathetic.
Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our newsletter to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres every Tuesday.