The Highbury Murders: A Mystery Set in the Village of Jane Austen’s Emma, by Victoria Grossack – A Review

The Highbury Murder 2013 x 200From the desk of Lisa Galek:

Many fans of Jane Austen’s Emma have described it as one of the first mystery novels. A mystery novel with no major crimes or dead bodies. Well, The Highbury Murders seeks to change all that. The game is afoot!

The novel takes place about a year after the events of Emma. Mr. and Mrs. Knightley are happily married and living with Mr. Woodhouse and their infant son at Hartfield. Emma still socializes with her friends Mrs. Weston and the new Mrs. Martin, while Mr. and Mrs. Frank Churchill are staying in London. Austen’s original began with a marriage, but this story opens with a death. Mrs. Bates has passed away and the village of Highbury must get to work making arrangements for her funeral, comforting her daughter, and generally mourning her passing.

Even with all these new developments in Highbury, Emma still can’t help letting her active imagination run a little wild. Will the Churchills arrive in time for the funeral? Why do the Eltons seem so concerned about money all of a sudden? And who are the strangers that Harriet saw lurking outside her back door? When serious crimes begin occurring, Emma must use her wit and intelligence to help her husband get to the bottom of these dastardly deeds. Will Emma and Mr. Knightley be able to figure out whodunit before tragedy strikes again?

This story is a continuation of Emma and it really blends very seamlessly with the first book. The plot flowed perfectly from the original, so I could imagine all these things happening to the folks we know and love in Highbury. The author also writes very well. As soon as I started reading, I was impressed with the way she captured Jane Austen’s language, tone, and style. That’s no easy feat and it really helped me to get invested in the story.

The characters, too, are natural extensions of the original. Emma is just as witty and spirited as always, though marrying Mr. Knightley has helped to make her a little bit wiser. I really enjoyed reading the details about their married life together as they are one of my favorite Austen couples. Other minor characters have expanded and delightful roles. Mrs. Elton is as ill-mannered, obnoxious, and comical as ever. And poor Mr. Woodhouse! How can he even think about walking in his garden with murderers afoot?

The big draw of this story is the mystery that’s lurking in the background. Clues are regularly dropped throughout to give you the sense that something sinister is coming. The book is short, but, it’s not until nearly a third of the way through that a major crime truly hits Highbury. And we’re halfway in before the mystery starts to really pick up steam and get juicy. In my opinion, the story started to drag a bit after Mrs. Bates funeral and it took a while to get to the good detective work. But, it all turned out to be worth it once the criminals really came out.

In the end, the whole mystery wraps up rather nicely. We try to solve the crimes along with Emma and Mr. Knightley, but these dirty deeds aren’t so easily unraveled. There are many suspects (I know I had my suspicious about certain a vicar from the beginning), but the book finishes with a twist ending that I never saw coming. It was actually one that clearly tied back with the original and fit perfectly with everything that had come before.

Emma may indeed be a detective novel with marriage instead of murder as its focus. The Highbury Murders promises all the same mystery, intrigue, and fun of the original. Except with a whole lot more dead bodies.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Highbury Murders: A Mystery Set in the Village of Jane Austen’s Emma, by Victoria Grossack
CreateSpace Independent Publishing (2013)
Trade paperback (162) pages
ISBN: 978-1482627459

Cover image courtesy CreateSpace Independent Publishing © 2013; Text Lisa Galek © 2014,

12 thoughts on “The Highbury Murders: A Mystery Set in the Village of Jane Austen’s Emma, by Victoria Grossack – A Review

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  1. I just found this review of The Highbury Murders – I am so glad that others are enjoying it. It was an absolute blast to write, and to take advantage of my obsessive reading of Jane Austen’s works and the little plot opportunity that she inserted into Emma.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Just in case you and your blog followers are interested, I have already written several other books. Alas, they are not exactly like The Highbury Murders. Jane Austen’s Emma, with its particular characters, setting, and plot, is the best of Jane Austen’s novels for a mystery sequel. I know other authors have based mysteries on her other books, but I don’t see the potential, and I usually don’t attempt what I feel should not be attempted, as I could not do another mystery the justice that dear Jane deserves. I may change my mind in the future – I have had many requests to “please write another!” – but that’s how I feel today.

        My other novels fall into two categories. With my frequent co author, Alice Underwood, I have written a series known as the Tapestry of Bronze. These are novels based on Greek mythology, and include Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus and Antigone & Creon: Guardians of Thebes. There’s also a trilogy that starts with Children of Tantalus and gives our solution to a mass murder that took place more than three thousand years ago.

        I have also started a series of contemporary cozies, Zofia Martin mysteries, with a university setting. The first, Academic Assassination, is already available, and I am hard at work on the next.

        You can find out more about my works at


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