Reviewed by Samuel Redfearn, age 16
Sense and Second Degree Murder by Tirzah Price
The Dashwood sisters each harbor somewhat peculiar interests. Elinor, the eldest, enjoys chemistry; Marianne, slightly younger than Elinor, works alongside her father in his detective business; and Margaret, the youngest, is a budding novelist at only eleven years old. In spite of their bizarre hobbies, they live comfortably—well-established in society thanks to the money their father makes as a private investigator. However, after his untimely death, their estranged older brother swoops in, uprooting the grieving sisters and their mother; within a matter of days, the girls find themselves living in a small flat in Cheapside. Elinor and Marianne are skeptical that their father died of natural causes, and with their mother perpetually bedridden, they take it into their own hands to investigate the highly suspicious circumstances surrounding the night of their father’s death. Sense and Second-Degree Murder follows the Dashwood family on their quest to uncover their father’s killer and bring them to justice.
Tirzah Price’s storytelling ability displayed in Sense and Second-Degree Murder is truly refreshing. Whilst some young adult novels are riddled with oversimplification or brimming with trite and overused stereotypes, this novel is clearly well-structured without underestimating its audience. Mysterious elements are masterfully woven in, and a majority of outstanding characters aside from the Dashwoods cannot be proven innocent until the final reveal of the culprit, demanding readers’ attention all throughout. The only major detriment to this book is the use of Jane Austen’s characters and setting, which feels tacked on and unnecessary. The idea of renovating a plot that originally centered around romance to include a thrilling adventure is innovative, with the characters and the situations that befall them closely resembling the original Dashwood tale. That aside, the book is a well of authentic, creative ideas which would have been equally enjoyable, if not more so, without referencing Austen’s work. Presenting a unified and perfectly unique story as an add-on to a previously existing work feels beneath the imaginative writing displayed here. That being said, I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys an easy-to-follow, adventure-filled murder mystery with likable protagonists and a nuanced plot.
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