This is the ninth 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 the spring of 1811, Jane is staying with her brother Henry in London to watch over the printing of her first novel, "Sense and Sensibility". In London, in the company of her brother and his fashionable wife Eliza, Jane finds herself amidst the ton and all the cultural diversions the city has to offer. However, when Henry's neighbour, the beautiful Russian Princess Evgenia Tscholikova is found murdered and Jane is implicated in the murder, she has no choice but to find the killer herself. Once again, Jane is determined to solve the mystery, so with the help of her sister in law Eliza, she begins to investigate the case.
This series is excellent and this ninth 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 descriptions of regency London are beautiful and the atmosphere of the high society parties, theatres, and parks is fantastic. 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, especially the frivolous and charming Eliza. Jane with her wit and her brilliant abilities of perception is very convincing as an amateur sleuth and as the series progresses her character evolves and becomes more complex. The story is narrated by Austen in her journal and the language is very similar to her existing letters, thus very realistic.
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 of the time.
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.
It's the eve of the publication of Jane's novel, Sense and Sensibility, and she is on a month's visit to banker brother Henry and his frivolous if loveable wife Eliza in London. It is on a trip to the theatre that she sees the much talked-about Princess Evgenia Tscholikova, cast out by her Russian relatives for some scandal in Europe and now apparently pining for love of Lord Castlereagh, a politician formerly disgraced himself and only now on the brink of returning to favour. Intrigues abound as Jane finds herself surrounded by Henry's noble customers and the politics of the day, as well as a rather unstable former friend of Eliza's who begs her help in the selling of some jewels for funds, as her husband is threatening to divorce her for one of the city's 'muslin set', a 'barque of frailty'. Then the unfortunate Russian princess is found with her throat slit on the steps of Lord Castlereagh's home, the Austens are visited by none other than Bow Street runners, those infamous early members of 'the law' and Jane is forced to investigate what she believes to be Tscholikova's murder to save both herself and her sister from the hangman's noose.
The seventh in this wonderful series of Jane Austen sleuth mysteries is again another page-turner. Though the Gentleman Rogue, Lord Trowbridge, is missed from proceedings, there is a little relief in the form of Sylvester Chizzlewit, a young solicitor who helps the ladies with their investigations. And though I did guess the villain quite early on in this instance, I didn't realise the reason why the character was so bad, so it didn't really spoil my enjoyment of the book overall too much.