A MYSTERY SET IN THE VILLAGE OF JANE AUSTEN’S EMMA
Most of Victoria’s writing time is devoted to the Bronze Age. Still, she has always had a deep fondness for Jane Austen and that novelist’s works. In fact, Victoria – who has no ability to distinguish between makes of automobiles – locates her car in the parking lot with the assistance license plate holder, which states: “I’d rather be reading Jane Austen.”
A couple of years ago Death Comes to Pemberley was published, along with many other works based on Jane Austen’s novels. Victoria has not read Death Comes to Pemberley – which is no reflection on that book but a decision to keep her own approach to the Austen world uninfluenced by the efforts of others. However, she was inspired by its existence to write a mystery based on Emma. She had always been niggled by a plot opening in Emma, and believed that a story could be created around it.
So Victoria sat down one day, did her best to channel the spirits of Jane Austen and Agatha Christie, and began the book. It was easier than she expected, possibly because she did not have to invent the characters or the setting, but only extend what Jane Austen already provided.
The result is The Highbury Murders: A Mystery Set in the Village of Jane Austen’s Emma. Public response has been extremely positive, with readers appreciating both the mystery and the fact that the writing sounds very much like Jane Austen.
The Highbury Murders is available at Amazon, both electronically and in paper. It is also available at Barnes and Noble, also electronically and in paper.
My Jane Austen Book Club interviewed Victoria about the writing of The Highbury Murders, in a feature called “Talking Jane Austen.” Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Who does the investigating in The Highbury Murders?
Mr. Knightley has magisterial duties in the region, and in Emma it is indicated that he sometimes meets with Mr. Elton, Mr. Cole and Mr. Weston to resolve local issues. So these men are in charge, with the greatest deference and responsibility given to Mr. Knightley. However, because Emma’s mind is so lively, she cannot help attempting to solve the case herself. Her husband, aware of her need for intellectual stimulation, supplies her with details not otherwise available.
What about Emma and Mr. Knightley? Are they already married in your story? What’s their ménage like?
The Highbury Murders is set about a year after the close of Emma, so Mr. Knightley and Emma are married, as are the other couples: Harriet Smith and Robert Martin, and Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. Mr. and Mrs. Knightley are living at Hartfield, which is what they decided they would do at the end of Emma (they will do so for as long as Mr. Woodhouse lives, which Jane Austen indicated in a separate note would be about two more years). They have a baby boy named George, after Mr. Knightley.
Two of the other recently married couples have also produced children in The Highbury Murders. As Harriet Martin was so indecisive in Emma, I thought it fitting for her not to be able to “decide” whether she wanted a boy or a girl and so inconveniently gave her both. The young Mrs. Martin is distracted and exhausted from taking care of her twins. Like Emma, Mrs. Elton has had a boy, named Philip for her husband. Little Philip is a few months older than Baby Knightley, and in keeping with her character, Mrs. Elton keeps hinting that her little boy is superior to Emma’s son.
Who is your favorite Austen hero/heroine? Why?
My favorite hero is Mr. Knightley, which will surprise no one. He is perceptive, fair-minded, generous and industrious. Of the heroines, I most admire Charlotte Lucas. Some condemn her because she did not marry for love, but she did not have that option. Instead of ridiculing her spouse, as Mr. Bennet does, or cheating on him, which is Mrs. Rushworth’s solution in Mansfield Park, Charlotte manages Mr. Collins with patience and tact. She saw an opportunity, seized it and made the most of it.
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?
I have a really hard time getting into
sequels to classics not written by the original author. ... However, with
this one, Grossack's writing is spot on when it
comes to capturing Jane Austen's tone and writing style. ... Jane Austen is
simply one of my favorite authors of all times and for someone modern and new
to capture her voice so well, it actually is quite stunning.
The Tapestry of Bronze is a series of novels set in Bronze Age Greece.
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