Arsenic with Austen (Crime with the Classics)
by Katherine Bolger Hyde
Cover Artist: Photo-Illustration by Anthony Hearsay;
Bookshelf by Angie Milam / Arcangel;
Poison by Wolfilser / Shutterstock.
Review by Gayle Surrette
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250065476
Date: 12 July 2016 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Emily Cavanaugh teaches literature at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Her husband died and she's moving on, but mostly she feels like she's treading water and wonders what happened to her life. It's at this point that she picks up her mail and finds that her Aunt Beatrice has died, the funeral is the next day, and the lawyer wants to meet with her as soon as she can manage it. Aunt Beatrice has left her the bulk of her estate which includes her home Windy Corner, money, and properties.
Emily is stunned. She never expected this and she hasn't been back to Stony Beach since she was jilted by her first love. Now she's got to decide what to do with her inheritance. It's as she talks to the lawyer and then attends the funeral and wake that she begins to think something is not right. Emily begins to believe that her Aunt Beatrice may have been murdered. But it's farfetched and she has no proof. An additional unfortunate aspect is that Luke Richards, the man who broke her heart so many years ago, is now the sheriff. She'd have to work with him if she wants to find out what really happened to her aunt.
The tension ramps up as the body count rises and attempts are made on Emily's life. The frustration of not being able to find any proof to connect the suspect, or any of the suspects, with the crimes builds for the characters and the readers.
Hyde manages to keep the characters consistent and real while moving the plot along to the final reveal. Some readers may suspect the identity of the killer but, as with the sheriff and Emily, the frustration grows as time after time the information that would cement the accusation falls apart on close examination. Once you reach the end, it becomes obvious how everything fits together -- it was all there.
The subtitle of Crime with the Classics is upheld by the reading material that Emily chooses to keep her mind occupied as things get more dangerous. Emily looks at the people around her as embodiments of the characters from the Jane Austen novels that she's currently reading. She factors the similarities of characters into her thoughts as she tries to figure out who killed her aunt.
I found Arsenic with Austen engrossing with enough references to some of my favorite Austen characters and books to please my love of these classics while finding enough plot twists and red herrings to keep me turning the pages. The side plot of a second chance romance just added a bit of spice.
Emily Cavanaugh is not a young ingénue, she's a widow, a professional woman with a career and independent life. She's also brave, thoughtful, and intelligent. She thinks before she acts and if she had a cell phone she would remember to keep it powered. I'm looking forward to more books in this series.