Arsenic with Austen
Katherine Bolger Hyde
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When Emily Cavanaugh inherits a fortune from her great aunt, she expects her life to change. She doesn't expect to embark on a murder investigation, confront the man who broke her heart 35 years before, and nearly lose her own life.
Emily travels to the sleepy coastal village of Stony Beach, Oregon, to claim her inheritance, centered in a beautiful Victorian estate called Windy Corner but also including a substantial portion of the real estate of the whole town. As she gets to know the town's eccentric inhabitants--including her own once-and-possibly-future love, Sheriff Luke Richards--she learns of a covert plan to develop Stony Beach into a major resort. She also hears hints that her aunt may have been murdered. Soon another suspicious death confirms this, and before long Emily herself experiences a near-fatal accident.
Meanwhile, Emily reads Persuasion, hoping to find belated happiness with her first love as Anne Elliot did with Captain Wentworth. She notices a similarity between her not-quite-cousin Brock Runcible, heir to a smaller portion of her aunt's property, and Mr. Elliot in Persuasion, and her suspicions of Brock crystallize. But as she and Luke continue to investigate and events speed toward a climax, Emily realizes that underneath the innocent-looking rocks of Stony Beach lurk festering jealousies that would have shocked even the worst of Jane Austen's charming reprobates.
From Publishers Weekly
© Publishers Weekly
First book in Crime with the Classics series!
Arsenic with Austen by Katherine Bolger Hyde is the first book in the Crime with the Classics series. Emily Worthing Cavanaugh receives a letter from an attorney letting her know that her Aunt Beatrice has just passed away, and Emily is a legatee (she is inheriting something in the will). Emily is a professor of literature at Reed College and school has just ended for the year (perfect timing). Emily heads down to Stony Beach, Oregon for the funeral and to speak with the attorney. It turns out that Emily inherited the bulk of her aunt’s estate (and Emily was just hoping to get her library collection). Emily had always loved Windy Corner (her aunt’s house) and is delighted to be able to live there (even it if is part-time). Emily is immediately approached by Vicki Landau, real estate agent, and Everett Trimble, the mayor (right after the funeral). The mayor wants to make Stony Point a resort town (with tacky shops, condos, hotels, and many, many tourists). Beatrice (who owned the land they needed) preferred a quiet, cozy town and would not cooperate with their plans. Emily likes Stony Beach just the way it is—a quiet, beach town. However, Brock Runcible, Horace’s nephew (Beatrice’s deceased husband) is all for the mayor’s plans for the town. Out of the four blocks of shops in town, Brock inherited one of them. Agnes Beech was Beatrice’s housekeeper and does not believe that she died of natural causes. When Sheriff Luke Richards (Emily’s high school beau) is of a similar mind, Emily decides to explore it further. Before Emily can take action, she finds Agnes dead at the bottom of the cellar steps (and it was no accident). Something fishy is going on in this town. Can Emily and Luke get answers before the killer strikes again? With Emily and Luke working closely together is there a chance to rekindle their old romance?
Arsenic with Austen had too much romance and too little mystery. The romance between Emily and Luke dominated the book (along with Emily’s thoughts of Luke which went on and on for many pages). These two have not seen each other in 35 years, but Luke loves her like it was just yesterday. Emily keeps obsessing over Luke from the moment she starts driving to the town (it was obnoxious). Emily acted more like a lovesick teenager than a woman in her 50s with regard to Luke. There is a Christian theme to the book (especially about forgiveness). The mystery seemed complicated, but it was really basic and simple to solve. There are quotes from various Austen books at the beginning of each chapter, and Emily compares people in the town with various characters from literature (mostly from Austen’s books). I found the book easy to read (nice writing), but the pace was slow until the end (the pursuit). I give Arsenic with Austen 3 out of 5 stars. One character that I did not like was Emily’s friend, Margaritte. I found her annoying (the feminine wiles and how she captivates every man). I wish the author had written her a little differently. Will I read the next book in the series? I probably will to see if there is improvement (every series deserves a second chance).
I received a complimentary copy of Arsenic with Austen from NetGalley in exchange for an honest evaluation of the novel. The opinions and comments above are strictly my own.