Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron: Being A Jane Austen Mystery
Bantam, 2010 (2010)
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Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
his tenth in Stephanie Barron's delightful Regency mystery series, starring Jane Austen as sleuth, opens on the death of Jane's beloved friend and sister-in-law Eliza, Comtesse de Feuillide. When Jane's brother Henry cannnot bear to remain in the home he and Eliza shared, Jane persuades him that '
salt air is as essential as balm to a wounded heart
'. Henry chooses to frequent the glittering seaside resort of Brighton, '
summer haunt of expensive Fashionables
' and of the Prince Regent.
n route, Jane hears muffled cries from a coach, which results in their rescuing fifteen-year-old Catherine Twining from the notorious Lord Byron, famed poet and '
the most celebrated Romantic of our age.
' Her father, a General, is not particularly grateful for the rescue, blaming his daughter for the escapade and planning to marry her off to an unpleasant elderly clergyman. Rescuing Miss Twining becomes a habit when they find her in need of it again in the Regent's Marine Pavilion. But then the young lady is found dead, sewn into a sailor's hammock in Lord Byron's bed at the King's Arms. That and Byron's reputation as '
mad, bad, and dangerous to know
' make him the obvious chief suspect.
ane is persuaded to investigate by an old acquaintance, Lady Desdemona Swithin, niece of Jane's beloved, long dead Lord Harold,
. Mona asks for Jane's help on behalf of her close friend, Byron's lover Lady Oxford. Byron's ex-lover, Lady Caro Lamb, swans in and out of the story, making her trademark drama queen gestures, which don't help his case. Neither does Jane and Henry's discovery of a tunnel between Byron's inn and the Regent's Pavilion. This only increases the pressure to settle the matter quickly and hang the poet, who soon seeks '
a private justice
', with Jane close on his heels.
t's an engaging series, the author casting a clear eye on her Regency setting - both it and her lead are thoroughly researched, with regular references to Austen's own writing (she's working on
while investigating murder this time). If you're either a Jane Austen or a mystery fan - and especially if you're both - you don't want to miss Stephanie Barron's charming tales of Jane's regular forays as a sleuth.
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