THE LATE MRS. WILLOUGHBY: A NOVEL, by Claudia Gray, Vintage, May 16, 2023, Paperback, $17 (young adult/ new adult, adult fiction)
In The Late Mrs. Willoughby, by Claudia Gray, Jonathan Darcy and Juliet Tilney must solve a mysterious poisoning.
Catherine and Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey are not entirely pleased to be sending their eligible young daughter Juliet out into the world again: the last house party she attended, at the home of the Knightleys, involved a murder — which Juliet helped solve. Particularly concerning is that she intends to visit her new friend Marianne Brandon, who’s returned home to Devonshire shrouded in fresh scandal — made more potent by the news that her former suitor, the rakish Mr. Willoughby, intends to take up residence at his local estate with his new bride.
Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley are thrilled that their eldest son, Jonathan—who, like his father, has not always been the most socially adept—has been invited to stay with his former schoolmate, John Willoughby. Jonathan himself is decidedly less taken with the notion of having to spend extended time under the roof of his old bully, but that all changes when he finds himself reunited with his fellow amateur sleuth, the radiant Miss Tilney. And when shortly thereafter, Willoughby’s new wife — whom he married for her fortune — dies horribly at the party meant to welcome her to town.
With rumors flying and Marianne — known to be both unstable and previously jilted by the dead woman’s newly made widower — under increased suspicion, Jonathan and Juliet must team up once more to uncover the murderer. But as they collect clues and close in on suspects, eerie incidents suggest that the killer may strike again, and that the pair are in far graver danger than they or their families could imagine. —Synopsis provided by Vintage
The Late Mrs. Willoughby is the second book in Claudia Gray’s Mr. Darcy & Miss Tilney Mystery series. And like its predecessor, The Murder of Mr. Wickham, the book is a delight. The series follows Jane Austen’s famous characters from multiple novels.
Gray has crafted a timeline in which all of Austen’s characters fit: Darcy and Elizabeth have a grown son, and Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney have a grown daughter, but Colonel Brandon and Marianne are recently wed. And, so too, is Mr. Willoughby.
This time around there are fewer intersecting books/characters, but the result is the same — the couples have grown, and there’s a sense that Gray’s world is an extension of Austen’s. In fact, Gray has done an admirable job adapting Austen’s writing style to her own while remaining familiar.
Though The Late Mrs. Willoughby has a fairly large cast of characters with multiple storylines unfolding at once, Jonathan and Juliet ground things. The duo interacts with characters throughout the book, making it a cohesive whole.
The Late Mrs. Willoughby is a smart, quick-moving read perfect for heading into the summer. Though the novel does stand alone, it’s much better in conjunction with The Murder of Mr. Wickham. They’re both great reads.
While not specifically a young adult novel, The Late Mrs. Willoughby is an enjoyable mystery perfect for Jane Austen fans of any age.
Copyright © 2023 Cracking the Cover. Unless otherwise noted, all books — digital and physical — have been provided by publishers in exchange for honest and unbiased reviews. All thoughts and opinions are those of the reviewer.