Friday, October 26, 2012
Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor - Stephanie Barron
So here’s a slightly different take on the proliferation of Jane Austen continuation stories – this is the first book of a series that has Jane Austen herself solving mysteries. The conceit of this book is that the author is the editor of some letters and journals that were found in a distant Austen relation’s attic in Maryland, that show that Jane was quite the detective.
In this first book, Jane has gone to visit a dear friend who is newly married, and now a Countess. On the day of the party to celebrate the marriage, the Count dies rather horribly of a dyspeptic fit, but there are some at the household, Jane included, that believe he was poisoned.
Before long, Jane’s friend Isobel, and the new Count (the old Count’s nephew) are suspected in the murder. Jane is the only one able to put together all the clues to find out who really did it.
This was definitely a different viewpoint of Regency life than you’d get in an actual Jane Austen novel – Isobel ends up in Newgate prison, and the author spares no detail of how terrible that place was. There are also some interesting details about the court system, and she throws in some interesting footnotes about a whole lot of other little things. They’re the kind of thing you can get most of the meaning from context, but there were several terms I thought I understood that had a slightly different meaning that’s been lost over the years.
This was actually a pretty interesting little mystery. If the whole Jane Austen thing turns you off, if you pretend she’s some other Jane, I’d think it would still be enjoyable.