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I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died

I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died, November 2023
by Amanda Flower

Featuring: Willa; Luther; Dickinson
352 pages
ISBN: 0593336968
EAN: 9780593336960
Kindle: B0BP66BGYL
Trade Paperback / e-Book
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"Come into the garden, with Emily Dickinson and Ralph Waldo Emerson"

Fresh Fiction Review

I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died
Amanda Flower

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted November 22, 2023

Mystery Amateur Sleuth | Mystery Historical

More fun solving cases with Emily Dickinson and maid Willa Noble. Since the poet often reflected a preoccupation with death, the first in the Emily Dickinson Mystery series was titled BECAUSE I COULD NOT STOP FOR DEATH and this sequel is called I HEARD A FLY BUZZ WHEN I DIED. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time until we reach "I felt a funeral" and some more of the choice phrases. On with the crime story.

I HEARD A FLY BUZZ WHEN I DIED is set while Emily is a young woman living with her prosperous family, consisting of a stern, controlling father, a vapid mother, and a recently wed brother who lives in a new house next door. There’s also a younger sister, Lavinia, who spends a lot of time writing, like Emily, and like many young women in their class. No wonder Emily, Lavinia, and Willa walk into Amherst in August 1856, to attend a lecture by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who is visiting with his eager secretary, Luther Howard. The two gentlemen accept an invitation to stay with the Dickinsons, and the stage is set for murder. History tells us that Emerson did not die, of course, and Lavinia finds Luther a keen admirer, which leads to problems. Following an upset, a body is discovered in the flower garden.

The first story spent time at a livery stable, and I HEARD A FLY BUZZ WHEN I DIED looks more to high society, with a ball, lectures, and dinner parties. Another visitor I was delighted to meet was determined author Louisa May Alcott, who wrote from necessity. Behind the polite chat and sleuthing, we get a glimpse of why a young woman might have become reclusive and might have been afraid to share her work with anyone. Perhaps such formative experiences made Emily behave the way she did.

Able young worker Willa has to do the cleaning and fetching, as well as escort Emily for propriety, and she's shunted into clue-hunting whether she likes it or not. Mostly not, as she’s in danger of being fired by Emily’s father. Through Willa, we see the other side of society: the immigrants, the servants, and the poor. I love this rounded view of life at the time. Author Amanda Flower tells us in a note at the end which liberties she took with her characters and setting, ones I think were entirely justified.

I HEARD A FLY BUZZ WHEN I DIED builds on the success of the initial story and develops both Willa and Emily Dickinson into splendid characters, with a well-worked mystery to solve in a historical setting. I’ll be back for the next adventure.

Learn more about I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died


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.

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