Arsenic With Austen
Arsenic With Austen features an older woman, Emily, a widow and a college professor who’s feeling burnt out. Then she gets the kind of news most of us can only dream of. The aunt with whom she spent summers as a teenager has passed away, leaving Emily an amazing house in a beach village, a well-stocked library, a grumpy housekeeper who’s an accomplished cook, and millions of dollars.
Emily moves back and quickly finds herself set upon by a pushy real estate agent who wants to sell off her aunt’s properties; the tacky, perspiring mayor who can’t wait to bring “progress” to the town; and a slimy “cousin”, Brock, who isn’t happy with his share of the inheritance. Not to mention her lost first love, the boy she spent those teenage summers with, who’s now the local sheriff. Some close to her aunt are suspicious of her sudden passing, especially with so much money to be made in developing the community into a commercial resort area.
I chose to read this new mystery by Katherine Bolger Hyde because of the literary title, although the actual connections are minimal. The Jane Austen quotes that begin each chapter are well-chosen, and Emily, about a third of the way through the book, decides to read Persuasion, but beyond that, this isn’t particularly Austen-esque. (Unless I missed a parallel. I’ve read all the books but don’t recall the details particularly strongly.)
However, the setting is wonderful, the characters are either immensely likable or mustache-twirlingly evil, and the time spent with the cast enjoyable. Some will find the heroine’s turn towards religion in the later part of the book surprising, but I thought it was a pleasant change from many other cozy mysteries, since the support of a church is part of many people’s lives, particularly in times of stress.
Arsenic With Austen is intended to be the first in the “Crime With the Classics” mystery series. I’d read another. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)