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Review: "There Must Be Murder" by Margaret C. Sullivan

There Must Be Murder is available at Amazon.

Was it murder? Or the product of an overactive imagination? Did arsenic figure into this drama? Was the apothecary part of a conspiracy, or just a convenient instrument of someone else’s ambition? And while we ponder these uncertainties, will General Tilney’s infatuation with "The Merry Widow" lead to marriage? And if so, will one or perhaps even two murderesses then reside at Northanger Abbey?

Thus begins Margaret Sullivan’s absorbing sequel to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. There Must Be Murder is also a tribute to Anne Radcliffe, particularly The Mysteries of Udolpho. As I read the former, I was very sorry that I had not yet taken the time to read the latter, or any of the other Radcliffe novels, a deficiency that shall be rectified soon.

Thanks to a fortunate accident, I was able to read There Must Be Murder with that same author's The Jane Austen Handbook in hand. I ordered the Handbook as a gift for Laura, and for some reason (probably my own incompetence) she received two copies. When visiting her at Christmas, she generously gave me the extra copy, and it entertained me all the way home. I have admitted in previous reviews that when my contemporaries were reading Austen, I buried myself in science fiction, reading about societies on other planets and galaxies. I felt fortunate that I did not have to play the role of Stranger in a Strange Land while reading of the Regency period, thanks to the social protocols and conventions of the time that I learned about in Ms. Sullivan’s Handbook.

There Must Be Murder features Catherine’s triumphant return to Bath, adding some pleasant emotions to memories of her trip just a year previous. Now a bride of two months with Rev. Henry Tilney by her side, Catherine is ready to revel in the romantic triumphs of others, sincerely believing that those others are as earnest and deserving as herself.

Ms. Sullivan adds a lighthearted touch to the story by prominently featuring MacGuffin, the Tilney's affectionate and enormous Newfoundland dog, as well as Lady Josephine, a tabby cat belonging to Lady Beauclerk. Another delightful touch is the presentation throughout of exceptional drawings by Cassandra Chouinard. My favorite e-reader is an old Palm Treo 680 phone using MobiPocket. To be able to view drawings in that format at all is just short of miraculous. The drawings displayed well on this old clunker of an e-reader. To be sure, the drawings I saw on my Kindle were much superior since they were much larger and the Kindle better equipped to display them. Ms Chouinard is to be complimented for both her beautiful drawings and for the technical ability to capture them for different formats of ebooks.


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