From the desk of Sophia Rose:
Do you ever read a book and enjoy it to such an extent that your mind continues to dwell on the characters, and you imagine your own continuation of the story? If that story is Northanger Abbey, then it is no stretch to imagine that the heroine, Catherine Morland, must have her dream of living inside one of her delicious gothic novels fulfilled even while reveling in the happiness of being married to her Henry. Oh, not as the gullible young girl who conjured up ghouls and mystery where it did not exist, but a heroine worthy of adventure when the adventure finds her. If you perked up at this possibility, then, like me, dear reader, you are primed for Shannon Winslow’s Murder at Northanger Abbey.
The story opens with Catherine and Henry Tilney, newlywed and living in bliss at Woodston Cottage. Catherine is still settling in as mistress and exalting in the tender and passionate love of her husband. She has learned from her earlier adventures and set aside the impressionable girl who saw a bloody skeleton in every locked trunk or a villain in every frown. She is sensible now and seeks to be a credit as a vicar’s wife.
Into this idyllic life, an invitation arrives from General Tilney for them to attend an All Hallows Eve Masquerade Ball at Northanger Abbey. Henry is dubious and still has strong feelings about his father’s previous treatment of Catherine, but if this means an olive branch, he should accept. Catherine is thrilled about the ball and revels in the chills she feels about spending All Hallows Eve at a house she once thought haunted.
Their arrival reunites all the Tilneys including Elinor and her husband. Catherine also meets a pretty, young, but ineligible woman whom Frederick brought to annoy the General, though she is startled to notice a soft spot in the cruel Captain. The General also has a young pretty woman on his arm and she is very much eligible as the daughter of a Marquess. He is bursting with some sort of inner glee over what is to come later in the evening, and she can only take heart that he welcomed them if a tad coolly.
And, after the General’s dramatic surprise, there is a death. The magistrate investigates and a surprising party is taken into custody. Catherine discovers that murder and potential suspects all around her is not the same in real life and her imagination conjures up a villain that has her locking her door at night and looking over her shoulder during the day. Time is now her enemy as she searches for the truth.
I was not far into this book when I was reveling at how it felt like a near-seamless transition from the original into this sequel. The characters felt like Austen’s own as did the setting, manners, and actions. Shannon Winslow was true to Austen even while painting the story with her own personal touch. There were some whimsical moments between Catherine and Henry that drew a delighted sigh and a few uncomfortable moments with the General or Frederick that had me cringing yet appreciating what transpired. This was a murder mystery, but it has the heart of an ongoing romance where a couple is learning each other in-depth and face their first crisis where trust, mutual comfort, and strength apart is needed.
I will not pretend to brilliance of mind, but I do enjoy murder mysteries and I had the culprit and even the motive and means right away. By no means did this shortchange my reading enjoyment. I might know, but the characters did not and the officials who had a suspect in custody getting ready to go on trial for their life most certainly did not.
Speaking of the officials and trial. It was interesting seeing the methods of policing and legal matters carried out reflective of those historic times. The courtroom drama scenes were taunt with excitement and I was wringing my hands as much as poor Catherine.
I summarize by saying this was a sensational sequel and I hope Shannon Winslow feels the urge to write more mysteries set in Jane Austen’s literary world, of course. I would recommend this book for not only those who enjoy Jane Austen-inspired fiction but also those who appreciate historical cozy mysteries.
5 out of 5 Stars
- Murder at Northanger Abbey: Sequel to Jane Austen’s Spoof on the Gothic Novel, by Shannon Winslow
- Heather Ridge Arts (June 17, 2020)
- Paperback & eBook (274) page
- ISBN: 978-0989025966
- Genre: Austenesque, Historical Mystery
We received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Heather Ridge Arts © 2020; text Sophia Rose © 2020, austenprose.com.