Jane Austen fans, Tirzah Price is back with another retelling of one of our favorite pieces of English literature, with a murder mystery twist! Sense and Second-Degree Murder primarily follows the two eldest Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne.
When their father is discovered dead in his study, the Dashwood sisters and their mother are left devastated. They are also left in a dire situation: Mr Dashwood’s outdated will means that his entire estate, including his private investigation firm called Norwood and Company – a company that Marianne worked at alongside her father and was hoping to one day acquire – would be given to their half-brother and his contemptuous wife. This results in the Dashwood family being driven out of their home with barely any prospects or money to their name, forced to move into a dismal and cramped apartment.
However, before they leave, aspiring scientist Elinor and investigative Marianne soon make a shocking discovery: the presence of a possible poison in their father’s tea, leading them to believe that their father had not simply died of a heart attack, but had actually been murdered.
The Dashwood sisters must combine their talents to uncover what truly happened to their father.
While Austen’s works had feminist elements in their own right and for their time, Price truly exemplifies these themes
Fans of Jane Austen will adore the original and feminist retellings of Tirzah Price’s Jane Austen’s Murder Mysteries series. Sense and Second-Degree Murder was equal parts entertaining, suspenseful, and romantic, particularly with the examination of Edward Farrows and Mr. Brandon as the two love interests of the eldest Dashwood sister.
Price really knows how to captivate her audience, molding a beloved classic with the thrill and suspense of a murder mystery. Additionally, while Austen’s works had feminist elements in their own right and for their time, Price truly exemplifies these themes. She does so by placing women like Elinor and Marianne Dashwood and Eliza Wiliams in professional fields that society would not have looked favorably upon. It’s incredible to see the women at work and in their element, regardless of social status and decorum!
While this is a murder mystery book, we truly get to know the Dashwood sisters on a personal level
Price excels at balancing the dynamics of family and romance within Sense and Second-Degree Murder. While this is a murder mystery book, we truly get to know the Dashwood sisters on a personal level. It also helps that each chapter switches between Elinor and Marianne’s point of views, and we get to understand their inner thoughts and turmoil as the story progresses.
The dynamic between Elinor and Marianne is wonderful to see evolve, and it is portrayed in a relatable manner. Their relationships with their mother and youngest sister Margaret are also ties that we witness grow and solidify, and it is heartening to see these women grow past the pain of losing their father/husband.
Of course, a big part of this book is also dedicated toward the sisters’ affections toward specific men. Elinor spends much of the book pining over Edward Farrows, the brother of her sister-in-law, and the longing that she has for him is both sweet and painful. Marianne, on the other hand, does not match up with Mr. Brandon until the very end of the book. Instead, she spends half the book mooning over the charming Mr. Willoughby, who is revealed to be hiding something malevolent from Marianne.
Both relationships for the eldest Dashwood sisters are very slow-burn, but the payoff is worth it in the end.
Moreover, though, the largest payoff of the book is seeing the Dashwoods get some closure with Mr. Dashwood’s death and allowing their talents to emerge within their respective fields. The romance was a welcome plot, but it was most definitely not the biggest takeaway.
Another exceptional retelling
Price once again weaves a marvelous tale from one of Jane Austen’s classics with Sense and Second-Degree Murder. While the characters and general relationships within are borrowed, Price’s book is something refreshing and original, and it truly feels like she made this story her own.
Sense and Second-Degree Murder was a great follow up to Pride and Premeditation. I look forward to seeing what Tirzah Price introduces next in this series!
Sense and Second-Degree Murder was released on April 5th, 2022.