(The subject of this review was an advance uncorrected proof copy. The book is to be published next month.)
I am addicted to this Stephanie Barron series featuring Jane Austen as an indomitable detective, and so when I had a chance to get an early copy of the book to read, I jumped at it! I was not disappointed. It is another very satisfying read, perfectly suited to a hot and lazy summer day.
We find Jane visiting her brother Edward and his family in the county of Kent. The tale opens with the wedding of one of Edward's neighbors, a widow named Adelaide Fiske, to a dashing Captain Macallister, lately in service with Wellington in the battle against Napoleon. All is happiness until, the newlyweds having departed on their wedding trip, a murdered body is discovered. It soon turns out that the murder victim is actually Adelaide's first husband. He had not been dead at all. At least not until quite recently.
Edward is the Magistrate and is charged with finding the killer. Very soon, of course, he is ably assisted by his "needle-witted" sister, Jane. Unfortunately, all the evidence that can be discovered seems to point to the new bride and old "widow" as the perpetrator of the crime. She is clapped in gaol.
But then, while she waits her trial, another body turns up. This one is a young maid, - Adelaide's personal maid, in fact - seventeen years old and, it soon is learned, she was pregnant. Soon thereafter, we get to know that the father of the child was Julian Thane, the dashing young man who is Adelaide's brother. He, too, is clapped in gaol on suspicion of her murder.
The mother of Julian and Adelaide is a noisome harridan of a woman who cares nothing for her daughter and would sacrifice everything for the welfare of her adored son. How far would she actually go to advance Julian's prospects?
As usual, Jane gets to ruminate upon the mores and morals of early nineteenth century England as she seeks the answer to the puzzle of the murders. Barron has caught the Austen style of writing almost letter-perfectly and this book, to use a very "Janeish" adjective is "excessively diverting."