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.