5 Stars *****
Publisher: Soho Crime 320pp
Genre: regency mystery, historical fiction, Jane Austen, mystery series
Author: Francine Stephanie Barron Mathews (b 1953) is a mystery writer and has written several series. As Francine Mathews, Merry Folger is a police officer in Nantucket while the Caroline Carmichael series are spy thrillers based on Mathews CIA analyst career. Her descriptive writing was influenced by one of her Princeton professors, John McPhee (one of my favourite non fiction writers!). As Stephanie Barron she writes the Jane Austen mysteries, presented as lost diaries edited by Barron. They are extremely well researched, witty, charming and a lovely homage to Jane Austen. I cannot believe it has been 20 years since the first novel. Worse, this novel takes place in November 1815 and Jane died in 1816. Barron writes for the thinking reader. These are gentle, entertaining mysteries with careful staging and intricate characters. You will enjoy the wit, charm and satire of Jane Austen in this beautiful homage. There are many Austen spin offs: Barron is my personal favourite.
Being the 13th novel in the series.
The battle of Waterloo has left the British economy in shreds, and Henry Austen is nearly bankrupt. Jane is editing her proofs of Emma while nursing her beloved brother in London. There are wonderful quotes from Emma throughout. Jane hears the two words Waterloo Map from the young, dying Calvary officer Col McFarland and sets out to unmask the poisoner. Jane’s keen observations and wit provide interesting details of social conventions, daily life, and personal reflection that make this a wonderful period piece. Misdirection gives a nice twist at the end.
I still miss Lord Harold Trowbridge, her previous romantic interest and fellow sleuth (5 books ago) but delighted to see her reacquainted with the fascinating artist Raphael West. This is a rather fast paced two weeks in her life. Persuasion is next!
Laurie King’s Mary Russell mysteries as period diaries.
For period mysteries : Nicola Upson, Jacqueline Winspear, Deanna Raybourn, Barbara Cleverly, or Anne Perry.
For intricate historical novels: Diana Gabaldon, Susanna Kearsley.
Opening line: There can be few things more lowering to the female sensibility than to be caught in a shower of rain at exactly the moment one desires to appear to advantage.
Closing line: But as I watched West’s equipage pull away from Hans Place, I felt a blank pit of loneliness just below my heart. And hoped, for all of us, in the promise of spring.
Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley, as well as purchased hardcover. Available from Rochester Public Library.