Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron is the latest in the Jane Austen pastiche series by Stephanie Barron, in which Jane appears as the solver of mysteries. The series and this book are great fun to read.
Any fan of Austen's writing will immediately feel at home in one of these books. Barron does a creditable job of imitating Austen's style of writing, even using the unique turns of phrase that often appear in Austen's books to convince us that these are, in fact, memoirs written by the Great Jane.
This is the 10th book in the series, not my favorite of the lot but still an extremely entertaining read.
As the book opens, we find Jane about to lose her beloved sister-in-law Eliza to breast cancer. Her brother Henry summons Jane to Eliza's bedside where she remains until the end. She then perceives that she and her bereaved brother are in need of a holiday to restore their spirits. Off they go to the glittering resort of Brighton which proves to be not very restful at all.
Also in residence at Brighton is the "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" Lord Byron. Jane and Henry soon learn first hand that His Lordship's reputation as a seducer of women is no fable, as they must rescue a young girl of fifteen years from his grasp. A few days later this young girl's body is found after having been drowned, sewn into a sack and left on what had been the bed of Lord Byron at an inn in Brighton. Has Byron killed the object of his lust or does someone hate him enough to want to make it seem so?
Soon Jane encounters Desdemona, the niece of her own lost love, Lord Harold, the man she refers to as the Gentleman Rogue, and together, the two women, with the help of Henry and Desdemona's husband, set out to find the truth about who killed the young woman. Public opinion and the powers that be have already decided that Byron is the culprit, but Jane doubts that he is capable of murder. Will she be able to prove it before the poet meets the hangman?
Stephanie Barron does a masterful job of recreating the social milieu and atmosphere of early 19th century England and she constructs mysteries that are lively and believable. The reader sinks into the story and can easily feel herself slipping back to that time. This series should certainly entertain any lover of Austen, or, for that matter, any lover of mysteries.