One of the great pleasures of my life has been introducing Jane Austen to my children. Now here’s a side of Jane that I’m going to introduce to you.
Who would have thought it? Jane Austen discovering clues, sifting through evidence, unravelling nefarious plots and solving grisly murders. But, when you consider it, the same keen eye for observation that makes Jane’s books such a joy to read would be invaluable to a sleuth.
Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor: Being the First Jane Austen Mystery
Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor (In Paperback or Kindle format).
Author Stephanie Barron must have devoured all of Austen’s novels. She writes in the Austen style which, from the opening paragraph, had me almost believing that I was indeed reading a hitherto unknown journal “discovered” in the basement of an old house.
When the squire of a country manor in Hertfordshire is found lifeless in his bed, foul play is suspected and Jane is called upon to unravel the mystery.
Along the way, Barron employs Jane as the first-person narrator and adeptly re-creates Austen’s voice and delightfully subtle humour
In December of 1802 Jane has come to Scargrove Manor at the invitation of its mistress, Isobel Payne, Countess of Scargrove, to join in the Christmas festivities and to celebrate the return of the honeymoon couple with a Bridal Ball
She has scarcely arrived when a cruel blow of Fate fells the Earl with a mysterious and agonising complaint.
And through the snowy dawn, a faint echo of pealing bells; they toll nine times as I listen, straining for the count – the passing bell from the church in Scargrove Close, calling out that the Earl is in his final hours. Nine peals for the dying of a man, and then a pause; the toll resumes, a total of forty-eight times, for every year of the Earl’s life.
But for the bereaved widow, this is only the beginning of a greater tragedy!
Nasty anonymous letters, irate peasantry and disastrous red herrings abound. Then not one, but two cases of murder most foul culminate in a desperate race against Time as Isobel begs Jane to employ her acute powers of observation to discover the truth of the matter. The game is afoot!
“As God is my witness, I am innocent of my husband’s death. Do not fail me, Jane!”
Here’s a satisfying, well-structured whodunit plot and a knack for rendering Austen’s style at picking up the most delicate nuances in social behavior. Most wonderful of all is the experience of seeing inside Jane Austen’s head (even if fictitiously). If you take joy from Jane Austen’s novels you’ll really appreciate this absolutely delightful ‘follow-on’
For a book featuring a feisty heroine with an acerbic wit, loads of entertaining dialogue, brooding, handsome gentlemen, lovely comments on the lives of “young ladies of more fashion than means” and a mystery to solve, then you can’t go past Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor:
Stephanie Barron, you’re a heroine of mine, and I really enjoyed this book. Highly recommended!