Friday 20 October 2023

Jane And The Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron - Review

Blog Tour: Jane And The Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron. Graphic shows hardback and ebook. The cover of the book shows a woman's silhouette
Today the blog tour for the last (sob!) book in Stephanie Barron’s Being a Jane Austen Mystery, Jane And The Final Mystery stops by for my review. Let’s take a look at the blurb and then I’ll let you know what I thought of the book.

Book Description

The final volume of the critically acclaimed mystery series featuring Jane Austen as amateur sleuth

March 1817: As winter turns to spring, Jane Austen’s health is in slow decline, and threatens to cease progress on her latest manuscript. But when her nephew Edward brings chilling news of a death at his former school, Winchester College, not even her debilitating ailment can keep Jane from seeking out the truth. Arthur Prendergast, a senior pupil at the prestigious all-boys’ boarding school, has been found dead in a culvert near the schoolgrounds—and in the pocket of his drenched waistcoat is an incriminating note penned by the young William Heathcote, the son of Jane’s dear friend Elizabeth. Winchester College is a world unto itself, with its own language and rites of passage, cruel hazing and dangerous pranks. Can Jane clear William’s name before her illness gets the better of her?
Over the course of fourteen previous novels in the critically acclaimed Being a Jane Austen Mystery series, Stephanie Barron has won the hearts of thousands of fans—crime fiction aficionados and Janeites alike—with her tricky plotting and breathtaking evocation of Austen’s voice. Now, she brings Jane’s final season—and final murder investigation—to brilliant, poignant life in this unforgettable conclusion.

Book cover: Jane And The Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron. Book cover shows a woman's silhouette
My Review of Jane And The Final Mystery

As you can see from the book description this is a series of fifteen books which turns Jane Austen into a murder solving sleuth. I’ve only read the final four. You can see my reviews of of book twelve - Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, book thirteen - Jane and the Waterloo Map and book fourteen – Jane and the Year Without a Summer.

You could certainly read this book without having read the previous ones, as it’s a stand-alone tale. I wondered how this investigation would be effected, as the previous book was set the year before Austen’s death and at this point she was already starting to feel ill. Even in good times as a woman without a lot of money she would have been quite curtailed in her agency about choosing when and where she could come and go, so I was interested to see how Stephanie Barron would manage this. 

Jane And The Final Mystery starts in the January of 1818, a mere 6 months before Jane’s death. Visiting friends are shocked to see the difference in Jane’s appearance that her illness is leaving.

It has been many months since the three of us have met—and I read the alteration of my person in their surprize. I have always been slender, but am now thin to the point of gauntness; my gowns hang upon my frame, and my visage is grown sharp and peaked. My colour is indifferent, tending towards the sallow, and my eyes, although they retain their brilliancy, appear sunk in their sockets.

Jane’s health means that she tires quickly, and cannot travel much. However, a number of circumstances come together that make this plausible – a family friend’s teenage son is suspected of the murder of another boy at school in nearby Winchester. Having suffered a loss in their own family, some of the Austens are away… meaning that sleuth Jane can travel with her nephew, a friend of the accused boy, to see if they can find out who might have carried out this crime. Jane is welcomed with open arms by the mother: 

“I am aware that you have ensured such crises in the past—that you are acquainted, however improbably, with violence and murder—and I know you have met adversity with a sanguine temper, and malevolence with a shrewd mind. That is why I wish to consult you.”

I felt that the investigation was carried out in a plausible way; Jane’s poor health was sad to see, but allowances were made for it in the investigation. I worked out the who fairly early on, but it took me longer to work out the why!

One thing I really enjoyed in previous books was Austen’s voice – the book is told from her perspective and as we know, she had a wicked sense of humour. We saw some of that:

That James sound undertake such a journey, in poor weather, when he has been suffering from indisposition himself this winter, is a testament to fine family feeling and the duty one owes one’s elders—or one’s pocket.

I was expecting to feel melancholy reading this book, as we know from the title that this is the last in the series, and from the date (much of the book takes place end of March/beginning of April 1818) that Jane has so little time left. However, I thought this was a fitting end to the series and I’d definitely recommend it. I’d rate this as a five star read.

Five star read

Author Stephanie Barron
Author Bio 

Stephanie Barron is a graduate of Princeton and Stanford, where she received her Masters in History as an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow in the Humanities. Her novel, THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN (Ballantine, January 22, 2019) traces the turbulent career of Jennie Jerome, Winston Churchill's captivating American mother. Barron is perhaps best known for the critically acclaimed Jane Austen Mystery Series, in which the intrepid and witty author of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE details her secret detective career in Regency England. A former intelligence analyst for the CIA, Stephanie—who also writes under the name Francine Mathews—drew on her experience in the field of espionage for such novels as JACK 1939, which The New Yorker described as "the most deliciously high-concept thriller imaginable." She lives and works in Denver, CO.




Book cover: Jane And The Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron. Picture shows a woman's silhouette

Jane And The Final Mystery is available to pre-order now in hardback and ebook. It’s due for release on 24 October.


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1 comment:

  1. Wonderful review! I am slowly working my way through this series and have been delighted with each one. I have read up to book 8. I have put off reading book 9 due to the death of somone she loves. I am sad to know there is an end to this series but it only makes sense. It had to end sometime.


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