4 star, YA

ARC Review: Sense and Second-Degree Murder

Series: Jane Austen Murder Mystery #2

Three of Jane Austen’s classic novels receive a murder mystery makeover in this romantic and thrilling three-book series that’s perfect for fans of The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy and Stalking Jack the Ripper. In Sense and Second-Degree Murder, aspiring scientist Elinor Dashwood and her sister Marianne, a budding detective, work together to solve the mystery of their father’s murder.

When eighteen-year-old aspiring scientist Elinor Dashwood discovers her beloved father slumped over the desk of his office study, she knows his death means dire straits for the Dashwood women. To make matters worse, an outdated will entails his estate—including Norland & Company, the private investigation firm where her younger sister Marianne worked as her father’s partner and protégé—to their half-brother and his haughty wife, who waste no time in forcing the Dashwoods out of their home and into a cramped apartment on London’s Barton Street.

But before they go, the Dashwood sisters make a startling discovery that points to foul play, and the killer might be family.

Obviously, the girls must investigate. It could be dangerous; it could ruin their reputations; and most importantly, it won’t bring back their father. But if the Dashwood sisters can combine their talents and bring their father’s murderer to justice, it may bring them all some comfort—and it might even lead to love.

**Sense and Second-Degree Murder comes out April 5, 2022**

Thank you Edelweiss and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tirzah Price continues to amaze me with her ability to take on a familiar Jane Austen book and add a mystery twist. Sense and Second-Degree Murder took all the beloved characters of Sense and Sensibility and really drove home a few key things: the sisterly bond, romance in its different forms, and science.

Sisters Elinor, Marianne and Margaret couldn’t be more different from one another. While the story really focuses on the two elder Dashwood sisters, all 3 show how resourceful and complete they are when they work together. Elinor is a budding chemist who liked to mix substances in a lab while Marianne was her father’s protege in the field of investigations. Let’s not forget Margaret and her helpful tips as an amateur writer on all the sordid crimes.

When their father seemingly died in his sleep, all points to an accident. But the Dashwood sisters figure it’s more than meets the eye and everybody around them could be a suspect. Was it a former client of their father’s or their greedy sister-in-law?

I loved how Elinor and Marianne looked at the same misfortunate events with a slightly different perspective. Their voices were so distinct and I enjoyed seeing it from both sides. Elinor’s the reserved, oldest sister who tried to take on everything upon their father’s passing, thinking logically and practically with regards to dreams and passing fancies like romantic feelings. Marianne was the passionate one who dove in head first with her heart and gut, and keenly observed things about human behavior that would’ve snuck by others.

Of course, this meant the sisters butted heads a lot. They didn’t always understand what the other was thinking or feeling, and instead laid the wrong assumptions on each other that pushed them apart. I feel this is such a realistic portrayal of sisters or siblings in general and it really fit in well with who their characters were. It wasn’t just a plot device to create tension but felt like genuinely different reactions to the trauma in their lives. The way they resolved their differences that ultimately helped them solve their father’s sudden death was a wonder to behold.

The other characters from Austen’s book also make an appearance in one manner or the other. I have to say the romance area also spoke a lot to me. Fitting with their characters and personalities, Elinor fought feelings of attraction for Edward Farrows, younger brother of their absolutely dreadful sister-in-law. Who’s to say they could make each other happy for so many years to come? Plus Elinor had other far greater worries to keep her busy. Marianne’s story displayed the immediate connection to Mr. Willoughby that felt like fate after the horrid events that befell their family. It was definitely a bit impulsive but fit her dream of a passionate romance that sparked upon an initial meeting where they just knew they were meant to be. With these romances underlying and balancing the mystery at heart, the story flowed pretty well and kept me invested to the end.

But of course, as a scientist myself, I have to touch upon the science. There were great elements weaved into the story, from apothecaries and use of laudanum to help with pain (including emotional pain after losing a loved one) to distilling chemicals and identifying poisons, the science was solidly present with perhaps small tweaks in historical timeline accuracies. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised with its place in the plot and how it fit seamlessly without having to be the highlight of the story.

That being said, this is still clearly a Jane Austen inspired piece of work and I can tell a lot of work went into crafting it in such a way. I think Austen’s fans will enjoy this second book in this series with how well Price honours the original piece. New fans can also look forward to learning more about Jane Austen’s characters in this way. I’d say this is a great next read if you love historical mysteries with dashes of romance!

Overall Recommendation

Sense and Second-Degree Murder presents a wonderful reimagining of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility with a murderous twist! If you’ve read the first book in this series – which all can be standalone or read in whichever order – you’ll be happy to know this is just as fun and creative with all the familiar characters coming together in a unique mystery story. I absolutely adored the sister relationship between Elinor and Marianne (and also with youngest sister Margaret). With suspects on every side and perhaps a romance on the horizon (if he wasn’t a suspect), this book should be added to your TBR ASAP.

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