This is the fourth book in the Jane Austen Mystery Series by Stephanie Barron.
In a newly discovered secret journal, Jane Austen documents her adventures as an amateur sleuth. In 1805, shortly after her beloved father's death, Jane is staying in her brother Edward Austen Knight's principal estate, Godmersham Park in Kent. Her peaceful and idyllic late summer holiday with her brother and his charming wife Elizabeth is interrupted when an infamous French woman is found murdered at the Canterbury Races. With the threat of a French invasion looming, Jane suspects that the victim was an agent of Napoleon and the motives behind her murder were political, so when her brother is assign to investigate the case, she is more than willing to help.
This series is excellent and this forth novel is one of the best so far. Stephanie Barron has, once again, created a gripping mystery plot, brilliantly set in Austen's time, with a very convincing Jane as its heroine. The atmosphere of the Summer Season in Kent with the Canterbury Races, the summer balls, the wonderful gardens, is fantastic and as in all the novels of the series, the everyday life of the time is excellent, drawn with beautiful imagery and historical detail. The well developed characters are based on the types of characters created by Austen herself, and thus are very convincing and typical of their time. Jane is very convincing as an amateur sleuth, her lovely sister in law is the perfect example of a proper, well-mannered lady of the time, and it was wonderful to see a little of Jane's lifelong friend Anne Sharpe, but I did miss Lord Harold Trowbridge in this novel, as he and Jane make an excellent pair. The story is narrated by Austen in her journal and the language is very similar to her existing letters, however it seems that the author is forgetting the journal element of her series, and the journal entries were not as realistic, as in the first two brilliant books.
In addition, the book includes excellent and very useful footnotes by Stephanie Barron, explaining some references to Austen's life and providing valuable information on the customs and politics of the time, in the form of "editor's notes".
The novel can stand on its own, but as it makes many references to the previous novels in the series, I think it is best to start from the beginning.
on 11 November 2010
A day at the Canterbury races for Jane and her family, and it's there that she first sees the woman in red...
This is the start of the fourth in this brilliant historical mystery series, where the sleuth is author Jane Austen. And whilst for me, it doesn't have quite the sparkle and drive of Book 3 (The Wandering Eye), it still manages to captivate and entice enough for me to be turning the pages faster than normal.
In this tale, Jane is cast in the role of assistant to her brother, the Justice of the Peace for that part of Kent, who is given the task of solving the murder of dashing Frenchwoman Francoise Grey, the wife of eminent London banker Valentine. To add to their difficulties, the county is in a state of terrified anticipation lest they have to up and leave their homes to the mercy of Napoleonic forces expected any day on the shores of Kent. It's up to Jane and her brothers, along with the delightfully indolent Lizzy, her sister-in-law, to come up with the true villain of the piece before another murder is committed or they are ordered to evacuate.
Another engaging story and great mystery, all written in a brilliant imitation of the great Jane's style.