I HEARD A FLY BUZZ WHEN I DIED by Amanda Flower
SERIES: An Emily Dickinson Mystery #2
GENRE: Historical Mystery/Amateur Sleuth (Clean)
RELEASE DATE: November 14, 2023
When a literary icon stays with the Dickinson family, Emily and her housemaid Willa find themselves embroiled in a shocking murder in this new mystery from USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award–winning author Amanda Flower.
August 1856. The Dickinson family is comfortably settled in their homestead on Main Street. Emily’s brother, Austin Dickinson, and his new wife are delighted when famous thinker and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson comes to Amherst to speak at a local literary society and decides he and his young secretary, Luther Howard, will stay with the newlyweds. Emily has been a longtime admirer of Emerson’s writing and is thrilled at the chance to meet her idol. She is determined to impress him with her quick wit, and if she can gather the courage, a poem. Willa Noble, the second maid in the Dickinson home and Emily’s friend, encourages her to speak to the famous but stern man. But his secretary, Luther, intrigues Willa more because of his clear fondness for the Dickinson sisters.
Willa does not know if Luther truly cares for one of the Dickinson girls or if he just sees marrying one of them as a way to raise himself up in society. After a few days in his company, Willa starts to believe it’s the latter. Miss Lavinia, Emily’s sister, appears to be enchanted by Luther; a fact that bothers Emily greatly. However, Emily’s fears are squashed when Luther turns up dead in the Dickinson’s garden. It seems that he was poisoned. Emerson, aghast at the death of his secretary, demands answers. Emily and Willa set out to find them in order to save the Dickinson family reputation and stop a cold-blooded fiend from killing again.
Other Books In This Series
“I had found Emily always had a purpose for everything she did, even if she was the only one who understood it.”
As I said in my review for Because I Could Not Stop for Death, I’m a big fan of Emily Dickinson’s poetry, and I love that Amanda Flower is using her poems as titles for this series. I had never really thought of how well several of Dickinson’s poems fit with a mystery mood until considering these first two books in Flower’s series.
I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –
(Read the rest of the poem HERE)
In this newest mystery, we are once again taken through the story through the first person POV of Emily’s maid Willa, the poet’s oft-reluctant sidekick in amateur sleuthing. In the first book, I saw their relationship as a unique friendship and partnership that crossed the social classes, and in many ways I think that’s exactly how Emily’s character sees it too. But in this book, I was a bit more sensitive to the relationship dynamic from Willa’s perspective and noticed some things I didn’t pick up on in book one. Seeing it through her eyes made me realize how selfish Emily can be in the friendship. Her casual indifference to how much extra work she caused for Willa at one point in the book really made me sympathetic for Willa, for example. Yet in spite of the fact that Willa is clearly the better friend, I can’t help but enjoy the indomitable team they make when it comes to solving murders. Their different roles allow them each to be perfect for investigating in different circles, giving readers (and the case) the best of both worlds. And, mild annoyance notwithstanding, I do like the way the author has characterized Emily in this series. I did get a little tickled though at how Louisa Alcott’s blunt personality irked Emily, because most of the difficult aspects mirrored Emily’s own (though they definitely differ on why they write).
The mystery is complex and layered and brings in key literary figures of the day like Ralph Waldo Emerson and the aforementioned Alcott. It was fun to theoretically rub elbows with them and see how the author represents them on the page. There were a couple of things I thought would go a certain way but didn’t, and I loved the surprising twists that were nowhere on my radar but delighted me all the same. Through dialogue and description, Flower does a great job of creating a certain mood that permeates the whole story, and I just wanted to sit by a roaring fire and curl up with a mug full of hot chocolate while reading it.
Bottom Line: Move over Sherlock and Watson, Emily and Willa are on the case! The juxtaposition of social classes and gender roles, the mix of ‘real’ people and fictional, the witty dialogue, and the clever murder mystery are just a few reasons to enjoy this historical mystery. In I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died, we continue to get insight into Emily’s evolution as a writer, her personality, and her family, but we also come to appreciate Willa even more as well. (For the record I am still rooting for Matthew to break through Willa’s defenses and win her heart.) I’m already eager to read the next book & find myself wondering which of Dickinson’s poems will be the inspiration for its title. An entertaining mystery that also serves as an ode to American classic literature!
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4 stars / loved it!
Amanda Flower is the USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning mystery author of over forty novels, including the nationally bestselling Amish Candy Shop Mystery Series, Magical Bookshop Mysteries, and, written under the name Isabella Alan, the Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries. Flower is a former librarian, and she and her husband, a recording engineer, own a habitat farm and recording studio in Northeast Ohio. Learn more online at www.amandaflower.com.
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