Darcy's Death Spikes New 'Bridget Jones' Novel Sales

The surprise twist is the cornerstone of a well-structured publicity campaign for 'Mad About the Boy,' the third book in the series.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Helen Fielding's forthcoming Bridget Jones book, Mad About the Boy.]

One can imagine Bridget Jones herself writing approvingly in her diary of the coverage surrounding the new book about her: "Weight: 134 pounds. Texts: 3. Times Googling self to see new articles about book: 346. They're writing about me! They're writing about me! Must remember to wear Spanx for next photo shoot."

The shocking plot twist from the third Bridget Jones novel revealed in an excerpt in the U.K.'s Sunday Times, which garnered coverage around the world, has given a boost to sales in the U.S. and the U.K.

The first glimpse of the novel finds a 51-year-old Bridget as a single mother of two dealing with judgmental school moms and trying to rebuild her personal life after -- and here's the story turn that has fans up in arms -- the death of her husband, Mark Darcy, in a car accident five years earlier.

Mad About the Boy is currently the top-selling book at Amazon.co.uk and No. 65 at the e-tailer's U.S. site (where it is also one of the top "Movers & Shakers," meaning it is one of the biggest gainers in sales rank over the last 24 hours).

The book has a first printing of 160,000 copies in the U.S.

Still up in the air is a possible third movie. The first two, 2001's Bridget Jones's Diary and 2004's Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, both starred Renee Zellweger as Bridget, Colin Firth as Darcy and Hugh Grant as his nemesis (and sometime Jones crush), Daniel Cleaver.

In recent interviews Fielding has said the movie rights to third book have not been sold.

Working Title, which produced the first two movies, had tried to develop a third movie -- tentatively titled Bridget Jones' Baby -- but progress stalled several years ago.

In a 2012 interview, Firth expressed uncertainty about a third entry in the franchise. "I wouldn't say that it's completely dead in the water," he said, "but the way it's going you might be seeing Bridget Jones' granddaughter's story being told by the time we get there."

Of course with Darcy dead, a third movie might not need Firth to get going. But Mad About the Boy does feature a hunky school teacher described as Daniel Craig-esque, so there's that for fans to look forward to.

The reveal of Darcy's fate is just part of a well-structured global publicity campaign that started last year with the announcement of the title, followed by a cover reveal and a brief plot tease in July.

The Sunday Times excerpt was part of a dual serialization strategy here and in the U.K. to maximize publicity. 

Vogue, which published excerpts from the original Bridget Jones' Diary in 1996, led with an excerpt in the U.S. (and is following with an exclusive interview in the November issue, which goes on sale Oct. 7).

The Times followed with the big reveal about Darcy's fate.

"We knew we would dominate the news cycle" with the death, said Paul Bogaards, executive vp publicity at the Knopf Doubleday Group, which is publishing the book in the U.S. "Now readers will turn their attention to the meat of the novel" --how Bridget navigates the dual challenges of being a single parent and dating in the early 21st century.

Fielding has said she thinks social media -- the constant cycling between Facebook, Twitter and Instagram -- and rampant texting make dating much more difficult than when the original novel debuted in 1996.

In May Fielding donated a copy of Bridget Jones' Diary for a charity auction to benefit PEN with her own margin notes that hint at her views on modern dating.

At one point she noted "Female weight-obsession has got worse, not better." During a dinner party scene with some of Bridget's "smug married" friends, Fielding added, "I wonder if all this is still as hideous for 30-somethings?" When Bridget is waiting for a phone call from Cleaver, she wrote, "So much worse now with e-mail, texting, Twitter, Facebook."

Next up for the author is the British publication on Oct. 12, followed by a U.S. book tour to coincide with the book's Oct. 15 American release.

In addition to a select interviews with national media, Fielding will make a de rigueur appearance on one of the morning shows -- in this case a chat with Jenna Bush on NBC's Today show that taped in London this week.