Jane Austen Murder Mysteries by Tirzah Price

Welcome to book spotlight where instead of giving you another book review, I’m just going to talk about books I’ve read recently that I enjoyed. Prepare yourself for the fangirl gushing.

I read a lot of retellings. Of fairy tales, of classics. All the retellings. So I couldn’t pass up the chance to read a series of Jane Austen murder mystery retellings: Pride and Premeditation and Sense and Second-Degree Murder. Basically these books by Tirzah Price are described as Austen meets Agatha Christie and they were delightful.

Some retelling ideas make me wonder if the original’s authors are rolling in their graves. There are just some ideas that should not be published, should not exist as an idea. But the way Tirzah Price retells Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility with a murder mystery twist was a lot of fun.

She keeps intact most of the characters and main events. But instead of family drama or finding a husband or whatever is considered the main plots of Austen’s novels, the conflict revolves around solving a murder or two (or three).

Of course this means that she fiddled with some historical details so it would work that ladies like Lizzie or Marianne or Elinor could work in law firms or investigate crimes or study chemistry. She took away some of the class elements and made most of the families part of the working class, such as Mr. Bennet being a lawyer and Darcy also working for a law firm and Mr. Brandon working in an apothecary.

Some hardcore Austen fans might not like these changes, but for the sake of the story and point of the retelling, I didn’t mind. These books are fun. It’s kind of fanfiction-y, AU-adjacent so I enjoyed them just as much as I enjoy modern retellings like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries or Emma Approved.

I also like how she uses characters from the original stories to be either the murdered or murderer. Even when I could guess certain characters would be involved in the murder (*cough Wickham cough*), there was always another twist that caught me off guard. I appreciated that it was both obvious connections and something unexpected.

And I like that the characters still remain true to the original characters. If Lizzie were interested in being a lawyer, this is exactly how she would react to a situation. If Elinor wanted to become a chemist, this is what she would do. The characters came across like the original versions but, again, with new interests or hobbies or perspectives. She even made some characters like Margaret Dashwood even better!

While the romance isn’t the focus of the books, there still exists the relationships we know and love. It may not end in proposals or marriages for the characters, but Tirzah kept enough that it makes sense for the story she’s telling.

I appreciate when retellings work within the original story but also can be their own stories. Readers without knowledge of Austen’s original novels could read these no problems, but fans of the classics will be able to appreciate how she took many of the original elements and used them for the mystery.

Her next murder mystery retelling is Manslaughter Park. I’m not a huge fan of Mansfield Park, it’s my least favorite Austen novel, but I’m looking forward to seeing how Tirzah Price adapts it.

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