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There Must Be Murder by Margaret C. Sullivan
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There Must Be Murder

by Margaret C. Sullivan

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3.75
I've said a number of times that I think Northanger Abbey is vastly underrated, both by the general public and by Janeites themselves. I've also said many times that I think it gives the best idea of Austen's personality and playfulness, and I think it feels the most like what it would have been like to know Austen and be friends with her. So needless to say, there are not enough Northanger  etellings out there for my liking. On the one hand, this makes sense, and not just because it's underappreciated; Northanger Abbey is a book that hinges on a silly moment of a very young character, and in the end, feels complete. There's not as much wiggle room there to play with in adaptations, or at least, not in the way that many adaptations tend to go. Nevertheless, when I see a Northanger adaptation pop up, I am all over it, so of course I was super excited when Maggie Sullivan (author of last year's "Heroic Ranking Index" post) sent me her latest, the intriguingly-titled, There Must Be Murder.

And what I found was a really solid, quick read for fans of Henry and Catherine. One playful enough and with that same sense of humor and observation that made me love its original,  while poking fun enough that I think even those who found Northanger too silly will still appreciate this one. Sullivan does a good job when it comes to recreating the characters and their experience of Bath, but also of progressing the stories and lives of those same characters. Those that found Catherine to be unbearably silly and frivolous will see that she's shown growth, though her spirit and penchant for ridiculous drama is still there. But as I always liked Catherine, the thing the story hinged on for me was the relationship, and it was strong on that score as well. The way Catherine and Henry interacted was charming and a believable progression from the end of Northanger. I've seen many discussions where people doubt their relationship and its potential for happiness, questioning whether Henry would remain interested in someone as flighty as Catherine. I've always thought they were very well-suited, and could see Henry happily teasing Catherine well into old age; this embraces that dynamic and showcases how well they work together. It's really nice, and with some of that characteristic sly style Austen has, but also with a more modern flirtiness to it.

Things have also changed and progressed nicely, or at least, interestingly, for other characters, too. And frankly, it's amusing to see General Tilney in a somewhat debased form. Reading this, I couldn't help but feel that he and Sir Elliot would get on capitally, were they to cross paths in Bath. You know what, nope. Scratch that. They'd fight like to primadonnas out for the same man - cuttingly one-upping each other, and maybe having a touch of grudging respect.*

Um. That was a tangent... ANYWAY, I really think that Catherine and Henry could have a whole host of interesting adventures in Margaret C. Sullivan's hands, and I definitely hope to see more. The only real drawback for me was that it wraps up a little too swiftly and neatly. I would have liked a little more dwelling on the "mystery" that Catherine finds herself embroiled in, and the darker, gothic aspects that are such a hallmark of Catherine's sensibility. There was potential to lengthen and make the most of the drama, but instead, it felt like Sullivan pulled back a touch, maybe trying to avoid those same pitfalls that make so many readers speak a little disparagingly of Northanger. Whatever the reason, I could have done with a little more on that score, but it doesn't change the fact that this was a thoroughly enjoyable, very quick, fun read.

*Now, they'd be an interesting pairing. Someone needs to take advantage of that. ;) ( )
  BookRatMisty | Sep 1, 2013 |
lovely to find a book in the post with a personal note from the author!
great inspiration to read the book!! which I did with much pleasure ~ thank you Margaret!
you wrote a talented tale that kept me reading instead of other scheduled activities - without regret! ( )
  FHC | Jun 13, 2013 |
A Northanger Abbey sequel that is so much more than "nice"

Northanger Abbey sequels are as scarce as an comely heiress. I can count them on one hand. There Must Be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan is a welcome addition to the slim collection. At 118 pages and twelve chapters it qualifies as a novella. I am not complaining. At all. I will take a Jane Austen sequel continuing the story after the wedding of our heroine in the making Catherine Morland and Austen’s most underrated hero Henry Tilney without hesitation, but with a wary eye. The story has a promising beginning. The tone is pleasing and the reverence to canon characters a relief.

We find Catherine and Henry comfortably settled as newlyweds at Woodston parsonage in Gloucestershire. Ever the thoughtful romantic, Henry proposes that they celebrate the anniversary of their first meeting in Bath with a visit to the city. Once there they are reunited with Henry’s sister Eleanor and introduced to her new husband Lord Whiting. Also in attendance at the Lower Rooms is Henry’s father the dour autocrat General Tilney, his recently widowed wealthy neighbor Lady Beauclerk, her twenty-seven year-old unmarried daughter Judith, and her husband’s nephew and heir Sir Philip Beauclerk. Catherine is happy to dance the night away, while family differences bubble and stew.

As Henry and Catherine continue to enjoy the delights of Bath attractions, they begin to learn that there are suspicious circumstances involving the death of General Tilney’s neighbor Sir Arthur Beauclerk brought forward by his widowed sister Fanny Findlay. She believes his death had not been natural – and it appears that many in this unhappy family would benefit from his early demise. The suspects stack up like winter cord-wood ready for the fire. Is it the wife, Lady Beauclerk, eager to be free of his miserly pocketbook? The daughter, Miss Judith, squashed by parental oppression? The dissipated nephew, Sir Philip, prohibiting his uncle from changing the will? Or the sister, Mrs. Findlay, ready to bump off all the heirs in line before her to regain the family fortune? Catherine’s Gothic inspired imagination may serve her well as a detective, if Henry can temper her impulses and guide them to a logical conclusion.

There Must Be Murder had me hooked at Henry reading Udolpho, Anne Radcliffe’s classic Gothic novel, to his young bride in bed. Brilliant. It is exactly how I envisioned their marriage would continue: Henry romantically feeding his wife’s passion for a horrid novel and Catherine finding new insights from the text from his patient and humorous explanations. The story cleverly builds, slowly layering in new characters, revealing family conflicts, planting evidence. Along the way we revisit Milsom-street, Beechen Cliff, the Pump-room, Laura Place and all the highlights of Catherine’s first adventure in the beautiful Georgian-era city. Sullivan has captured the charm and endearing delight of Austen’s characters beautifully, added new ones rich in folly and nonsense, and a Newfoundland dog named MacGuffin who steals every scene. The numerous illustrations by Cassandra Chouinard are enchanting. My only disappointment was in the length. It was over much too quickly. Austen’s Henry Tilney would have been annoyed, claiming this shortcoming was “nice.” We will agree.

Laurel Ann, Austenprose ( )
  Austenprose | Jan 21, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0615425879, Paperback)

Henry and Catherine Tilney are content with their married life: a comfortable parsonage, their dogs, and one another. The idea of returning to Bath a year after they first met there seems like it can only add to their happiness; but Catherine finds that Bath still carries social dangers that she must learn to navigate. What is the nature of Henry's past relationship with a beautiful young woman? Why is a rakish baronet paying Catherine such particular attention? Is General Tilney going to marry the woman known in Bath as The Merry Widow—and what did she have to do with her husband's death? And will Henry ever be able to keep his Newfoundland out of the river? Revisit the winter pleasures of Georgian Bath with your favorite characters from Jane Austen's hilarious Northanger Abbey, and prepare for a bit of romance, a bit of mystery, and a very nice story indeed!

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:30 -0400)

Henry and Catherine Tilney are content with their married life: a comfortable parsonage, their dogs, and one another. The idea of returning to Bath a year after they first met there seems like it can only add to their happiness; but Catherine finds that Bath still carries social dangers that she must learn to navigate. What is the nature of Henry's past relationship with a beautiful young woman? Why is a rakish baronet paying Catherine such particular attention? Is General Tilney going to marry the woman known in Bath as The Merry Widow??and what did she have to do with her husband's death? And will Henry ever be able to keep his Newfoundland out of the river? Revisit the winter pleasures of Georgian Bath with your favorite characters from Jane Austen's hilarious Northanger Abbey, and prepare for a bit of romance, a bit of mystery, and a very nice story indeed.… (more)

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Margaret C. Sullivan is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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