Fans hit by Bridget bombshell

Bridget Jones' love interest Mark Darcy is to be killed off, a pre-publication extract from Helen Fielding's Mad About the Boy has revealed. Bridget is left a widowed mother of two in the forthcoming sequel.

Mad About the Boy (Jonathan Cape), which is published on 10th October, was serialised in the the Sunday Times yesterday (29th September), with the extract showing Bridget is now 51, with two small children called Mabel and Billy, and a toy-boy boyfriend called Roxster. The cause of Darcy's death is shown in a flashback in the book, and will not be revealed in advance.

The character was last seen in The Edge of Reason, proposing to Jones.

Fans took to social media after the extract appeared yesterday, with some upset at the news, and the fact that it had been released ahead of the book itself. Twitter user Rachel Agnew said: "Bridget Jones is 51 and Mark Darcy is dead. Wow Helen Fielding knows how to inject the feel-good factor into the promotion of her new book!", while Helen Furniss tweeted:  "Gutted about Mark Darcy. I can't face a world with no happily ever after for Mark and Bridget!"

But The Bookseller's fiction previewer Cathy Rentzenbrink said her appetite for the book had been "well and truly whetted" by the published extract. "It's fabulous," she said. "It's great that Bridget has children—all the original Bridget Jones fans have grown up and we need her to have grown up with us, and there is so much comedy potential around parenthood. The Hive by Gill Hornby was really successful, so it's zeitgeisty.

"And it makes perfect sense for Bridget to be a widow. She can't be happily married, happy marriage doesn't work in fiction because it doesn't sustain a narrative drive. I'm not interested in reading about Bridget and Mark Darcy arguing over whose responsibility it is to get the car MOT'd or working out that the dishwasher isn't broken, they just need to put some Rinse Aid in it… And unhappily married? Do we want an adulterous Bridget? Or a Bridget who self-medicates with chocolate and gin while Mark Darcy is off philandering with someone with whom he doesn't have to discuss MOTs or dishwashers?"

Jon Howells of Waterstones commented: "The way the publisher has managed this serialisation and the bombshell announcement [of Mark Darcy's death] has been spot on. There can't be a Bridget Jones fan in the country who isn't aware that the book is now imminent."

The extract also shows Jones' new concerns, stressing over the school run and politics at the school gates, and determined to "meditate regularly, and lose weight". She is also keen to start using social media, and stop hiding wine bottles.

The character Daniel Cleaver, played by Hugh Grant in the film versions, is also mentioned in the extract as a "naughty godfather" to Mabel and Billy, "relied upon for emergency babysitting duties and inappropriate sexual advances towards their mother".