Saturday, January 15, 2011

Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge: Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, by Stephanie Barron

Having never read any in this series of books, let me first say I was very excited to learn of a mystery series featuring Jane Austen.  Being a Nancy Drew lover, I was psyched to read the entire series.

And now after reading the first mystery, I am even more psyched!  I couldn't put it down!

Jane attends her great friend Isobel, the newly wed Countess of Scargrave, at a ball in honor of her marriage.  Being of humble circumstances, you immediately feel Jane's unease at being surrounded by the finery of the ton, but she deals with it well and enjoys herself.  This pattern is repeated throughout the book, as well as her self doubt in breaking off an engagement.  It is Jane's life, mixed in with the murders at Scargrave that make this book so enjoyable.  I think if it had just been the mystery, the book would not have been as well-rounded.  Jane's natural wit when put into practice in matters other than writing is enjoyable as is her natural curiosity that serves her well as the murder trial commences and she searches desperately for the real killers while her friend sits in prison.  Her tenacity and charm endear her to most everyone...except for those who want her out of their business.

Barron's writing is flawless; her characters are well-rounded and believable, as is the mystery.  There are no gaping plot holes, and in fact, I was guessing up until the very end.  There's nothing better than a mystery where you are taken by surprise by the identity of the villain, and in this mystery, the plot details are laid out with such subtlety that you are not sure until the very end.  An enjoyable read, and I can't wait to start the next one!

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