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Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor: Being the First Jane Austen Mystery Hardcover – April 1, 1996
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In a time of near Jane Austen-mania, what better heroine to solve a mystery than Jane herself? Only two things are required: a satisfying, well-structured whodunit plot and a knack for rendering Austen's style at picking up the most delicate nuances in social behavior. Stephanie Barron succeeds on both counts. 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 humor.
From Publishers Weekly
With this series opener, Barron catches the Jane Austen popularity wave with impeccable timing?but that may be the best that can be said of this debut. Purportedly editing Austen manuscripts found in an old Maryland estate, Barron recounts the suspicious death of the elderly Frederick Payne, Earl of Scargrave. Anonymous notes accuse Isobel, Austen's friend and Payne's young bride, and a "grey-hared Lord" of murdering the earl. Intensifying Isobel's misery is Lord Harold Trowbridge, who badgers the widow to sell him her estate in Barbados. Concerned for her friend and for Fitzroy Payne, the new earl who not-so-secretly loves Isobel, Austen undertakes snooping that leads her to a second corpse and leads Isobel and Fitzroy to trial before the House of Lords. As Austen explores a passel of suspects who are heavy-handedly cast as the originals for the characters in her novels, the reader is offered imitation scholarly footnotes. To be truly helpful, Barron might have better explained how Austen hears Big Ben, a bell cast some 40 years after her death. Austen as mystery writer is an appealing idea, but inadequately served here. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
After accepting and breaking a marriage proposal from Harris Bigg-Wither's within a twenty-four hour period, Jane Austen accepts an invitation to visit her dear friend Isobel, Countess of Scargrave, at their country home Scargrave Manor. Newly married, her husband, the Earl is throwing a ball in her honor. During the ball, the Earl becomes violently ill and dies at dawn the next morning. Isobel's maid disappears shortly after and is found dead a few days later. Rumors of an affair between Isobel and Viscount Payne, the Earl's nephew begin to circulate. Isobel and the Viscount are accused of the murders, and it all looks bleak indeed! Jane races against the clock to find the true murderer!
Isobel is sent to Newgate prison to await her trial before the Bar. Newgate is a horrible place to be, and although it is not the main focus, Barron doesn't make light of it. Isobel is in despair there.
I loved how much Jane reminded me of Elizabeth Bennett. Another person, Lieutenant Hearst, a member of the Earl's family had strong hints of Wickham and Frank Churchill. There are also well recognized Austen lines placed here and there along the story. I loved finding them!
I was at a loss as to guess whodunit, there are a cast of characters whom all would benefit from the Earl's death! If you enjoy a good mystery and Jane Austen, this is the book for you! With ghosts and murder, it has the feel of a gothic novel!
I purchased my copy of Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor.
Written in Austen's style with Jane Austen as the protagonist/murder mystery solver. Much historical info incorporated and use of English area settings. Delightful!