Named one of the Top Ten Mystery and Thriller releases for Fall 2022 by Publishers Weekly
"Interlocking mysteries lie at the heart of Joanna Margaret’s richly atmospheric and irresistibly readable debut novel, the harrowing saga of a young American woman historian who finds herself embroiled in a Machiavellian plot reaching back to 16th century Italy. Whether evoking present-day Scotland in a windswept region overlooking the North Sea, or Renaissance Genoa in a time of vertiginous political plotting, The Bequest is filled with unexpected turns and revelations for the reader as well as the historian-heroine."
― Joyce Carol Oates
A first rate mystery by a first time author. Intriguing plot and well drawn characters.
—Martin Cruz Smith
"This debut from art historian Joanna Margaret hopscotches across European art and academia hot spots and delivers on a wild ride with nods to gothic fiction and dark academia, accompanied by smart notes of Hitchcock to round out this exemplary thriller. With a doctoral candidate at the center of the plot, you can expect an erudite unraveling of the mystery, as well as some pressure cooker atmospherics from some of the grandest spots on the international intellectual circuit."
- On her inspiration for the book, in an interview with Publishers Weekly:
I was in the academic world previously and had an experience about seven years ago in Florence while I was doing historical research in the Medici Grand Ducal Archive and I found this code, an original 16th-century key to ciphered letters. That sparked my interest in coded letters and communications that were happening then, what kind of information would be exchanged that someone would want to keep secret.
- "The Season of Dark Academia," The New York Times
- "Joanna Margaret’s debut The Bequest goes on sale in the middle of the college school year. And the timing is PERFECT because we know you’ll be wanting those dark academia feels—an autumn sweater, the conspiratorial whispers of PhD students, and professors wanting us to hunker down in the library “tombs” with this delicious mystery." –– Barnes & Noble
- Introduction to Dark Academia at CrimeReads.
- Good Morning America, 15 October books to make you think and feel
- "This is a fun, twisty college-set gothic mystery that's a bit National Treasure-meets-"dark academia" thriller, with a dash of The Secret History thrown in. There's fantastic world building here, and sumptuous locations from Scotland to Italy to France. The story finds Isabel Henley trying to leave behind a failed affair in the States to start a PhD in Scotland, only to find her would-be mentor dead on arrival." –– The Ankler
“Intricately plotted, exquisitely written, and brimming with atmosphere, The Bequest is a brilliant debut, as smart as it is compelling."
“As Isabel embarks on a high-stakes intellectual treasure hunt that will take her from the Falcone family’s Genoese palazzo to archives in Florence and Paris, the author not only maintains suspense but makes the historical figures come vibrantly alive through their correspondence… readers will eagerly await Margaret’s next.”
- Writers Digest, Interview
- CrimeReads, 10 Novels You Should Read This October
- Bustle, The Most Anticipated Books of October 2022
- "Top 10" for Fall in Publishers Weekly
- October 2022 First Mystery Crime Club Pick at the Mysterious Bookshop
- October 2022 Strand Bookstore Pick-of-the-Month
- "Isabel finds a hidden recording from Rose that reports she is being held against her will and urges Isabel to take over her research into a little-known Renaissance-era Italian family that may have been the owners of a priceless emerald, current whereabouts unknown. This research takes Isabel to Genoa, Florence, and Paris, always with the sense that Rose’s captors are breathing down her neck as she works desperately to uncover the mystery of the Falcone family and the emerald, unsure of whom to trust. There’s an academic bent to the mystery; this one will appeal to lovers of Dan Brown and Elizabeth Kostova and other mysteries of old documents and historical figures." –– Kirkus Reviews
- Zibby's Top Book Picks for October - Zibby Magazine