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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jane and the Canterbury Tale by Stephanie Barron | Guest Review from Sophia Rose!

Today we have a guest review from Sophia Rose of the blog Delighted Reader. I always love the thoughtful (and enthusiastically Janecentric!) comments Sophia brings to the table, so of course I was thrilled to welcome her into the fold this year.
She's taken on a review by a very popular Austenesque author, Stephanie Barron (whom I shamefully have yet to read), with one of her Jane Austen Mysteries, Jane and the Canterbury Tale! Clearly I need to add Stephanie Barron to my to-get list, but until then, enjoy Sophia's thoughts on this one, and let us know YOURS in the comments!

"You are a formidable lady, are you not, Aunt Jane?" she asked wistfully.  "When I was a child, I was used to think you were like a good faerie- always dropping out of the sky with your delightful stories, and dolls-clothes you embroidered so neatly; playing at cricket regardless of the stains the lawn left on your dress, and teaching the little ones to toss spillikins.  It is only now I am grown older- and have been privileged to read your novels, and apprehend the subtlety of your observations-that I know how cold a reason you command."
"I shall chuse to take that as a compliment."  p. 55  Fanny Austen-Knight to Jane Austen in Jane and the Canterbury Tale

And this quote is an apt description of the Jane Austen as described by Stephanie Barron in the latest of her brilliant historical mystery series featuring the famous author as sharp-eyed and even sharper witted detective solving ticklish murders that baffle everyone else.  The series is written in such a way that it is faithful to the timeline of Jane's life and the real people that moved through it.  When fiction meets the authentic, it fits together seamlessly into a cohesive story that is believable.  Well...perhaps her penchant for being a magnet for murder might be a bit excessive, but I find myself not minding that at all.

I have been a fan of this series since the beginning and I get so excited when each new installment makes its appearance.  This particular segment returns to the home of Jane's brother Edward, Godmersham Park in Kent, as the setting for the story.  It is part of a series and would best be read in the series order, but in a pinch it could be read out of order.

Jane is on a visit to her brother and her niece, Fanny.  While she's there, they attend the wedding of some people associated with Edward's nearest neighbor.  Things get interesting when the bride's ne'er do well dead husband is discovered to have returned from the dead only to be found murdered on The Pilgrim's Way that runs through Edward's property.  Edward is the magistrate charged to investigate and he requests Jane's help in untangling this nasty murder that involves people he considers friends and close acquaintance.

The plot was a slow-paced twisty type that laid out the facts, the set of characters/suspects, teased out the character's personalities, and presented just a bit more of Jane's life at the time.  It's always interesting how there are several inexplicable little mysteries going on that may or may not have any bearing on the main mystery just like there are so many suspects that its tough to settle on a solution prior to the reveal.

I was impressed with the depth to which the characters were drawn.  Even the unlikeable ones or ones that seem almost background are more than 2-D.  Many were so sympathetic that I was on pins and needles that one of my favorites would be the culprit.

The historical background is one of the big draws for me to this series.  All the little details from the time period from the speech, to the activities, to the description of things like carriages or clothes, household life and social norms.  There are nifty footnotes sprinkled through to explain further or show when an actual letter gets quoted.

All in all, this was another sparkling one from this series and I look forward to what comes next.  Those who enjoy historical mysteries and particularly those who are Austenesque fans should give this series a try.

~ Sophia Rose

Jane and the Canterbury Tale by Stephanie Barron
#11 Being a Jane Austen Mystery
Historical Mystery
Publisher: Bantam
Published: 8.30.11
Pages: 322
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Self
Sellers: Amazon | B&N | ARe
Three years after news of her scandalous husband’s death, Adelaide Fiske is at the altar again, her groom a soldier on the Marquis of Wellington’s staff. The prospects seem bright for one of the most notorious women in Kent — until Jane Austen discovers a corpse on the ancient Pilgrim’s Way that runs through her brother Edward’s estate. As First Magistrate for Canterbury, Edward is forced to investigate, with Jane as his reluctant assistant. But she rises to the challenge and leaves no stone unturned, discovering mysteries deeper than she could have anticipated. It seems that Adelaide’s previous husband has returned for the new couple’s nuptials — only this time, genuinely, profoundly dead. But when a second corpse appears beside the ancient Pilgrim’s Way, Jane has no choice but to confront a murderer, lest the next corpse be her own.

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  1. OoOoOo! I'd never before heard of this author or this series. Yay! Another to add to the wish list!

  2. Will have to investigate this author and add to my want list

    1. Hope your investigations are successful, Vesper!

  3. Sounds intriguing. Added to my wish list.

  4. I have so many of these on my wish list. It is a bit Miss Marple-y? I love those books, so I hope so!

    1. It is a little Miss Marple-y, but very period too. Hope you like them, Ceri!


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