It's with a heavy heart that Jane Austen takes up a new residence at Chawton Cottage in Hampshire. Secretly mourning the lost love of her life, she's stunned to learn that the late Lord Harold Trowbridge has made her heir to an extraordinary bequest: a Bengal chest filled with his diaries, letters, and most intimate correspondence. From these, Jane is expected to write a memoir of the Gentleman Rogue for posterity. But before she can put pen to paper on this labor of love, she discovers a corpse in the cellar of her new home.The dead man was a common laborer, and a subsequent coroner's examination shows he was murdered elsewhere and transported to Chawton Cottage. Suddenly Jane and her family are thrust into the center of a brewing scandal in this provincial village that doesn't take kindly to outsiders in general--and to Austens in particular.
Readers who hope to recapture, if only briefly, the pleasure of reading Jane Austen for the first time will welcome Barron's eighth Jane Austen mystery, set in the summer of 1809. Jane and her mother have just settled at Chawton Cottage, the country house that will be Jane's last home, when she's surprised by the delivery of a bequest from the late Lord Harold Trowbridge, who was murdered at the end of Jane and the Ghosts of Netley (2003). No sooner has Jane established that the Bengal chest is filled with his lordship's personal papers than she discovers the mutilated body of a laborer in the cottage's cellar. Jane once again turns sleuth, investigating not only the murder but also rival claims to two different estates in the neighborhood, a bank robbery and a local man's disappearance. The author expertly weaves the tale's disparate elements, sympathetically sketching in such secondary characters as Jane's mother and brother Henry, on both of whom she casts an ironic eye. As usual, Barron has masterfully imitated Austen's voice. Agent, Rafe Sagalyn.(Mar. 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 28, 2005
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