Stephanie Barron is the author of eight previous Jane Austen mysteries. She lives in Colorado, where she is at work on the next Jane Austen mystery.
Set in the autumn of 1808, Barron's seventh Jane Austen mystery (after 2002's Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House) offers a wonderfully intricate plot full of espionage and intrigue. While admiring the romantic ruins of Netley Abbey on the Southampton coast, the author and sleuth receives a summons from Lord Harold Trowbridge, who asks her to gain the confidence of a suspected French agent, Sophia Challoner, who's taken up residence at Netley Lodge near the ruins. On meeting Sophia, Jane is skeptical that the attractive widow is "the Peninsula's most potent weapon" against the British forces there. When an enemy of England sets fire to a frigate moored at Southampton Water, home of the Royal Navy, and cuts the throat of its shipwright, Jane begins to have doubts that could put herself-or someone close to her-in deadly peril. Barron effortlessly works in such actual history as the machinations surrounding Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Prince Regent's morganatic wife, and the issue of Catholic Emancipation, along with the domestic arrangements of the Austen household at a time of great family sadness and upheaval. Brief editor's notes unobtrusively elucidate such matters as mourning practices of the day. The Austen voice, both humorous and fanciful, with shades of Northanger Abbey, rings true as always. Once again Barron shows why she leads the pack of neo-Jane Austens, which includes Emma Tennant, Julia Barrett and Elizabeth Aston. (June 3) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"First-rate...Barron writes a lively adventure that puts warm flesh on historical bones. The nice thing is she does so in a literary style that would not put Jane Austen's nose out of joint."-The New York Times Book Review
Adult/High School-This seventh Austen outing finds the writer and sometime detective recruited once again by Lord Harold Trowbridge. England is fighting France, and he has set Jane to spy on a new neighbor, Sophia Challoner, whom he suspects of spying for Napoleon. Due to a fortuitous riding accident, Jane befriends the woman and her companion, a mysterious young American. Suddenly, a covert and violent war erupts in the quiet seaside community when a ship of the line is torched and the shipwright, killed. Aside from the well-plotted story, Barron imparts details of 19th-century England: what was fashionable and forbidden, the importance religion played in the politics, and how women fared in a decidedly male-dominated society. In footnotes, she deftly explains unfamiliar terms and historical information not easily woven into the narrative. Teens will be captivated by this adventurous detective story filled with intrigue, romance, and the unique and resourceful heroine.-Jane Halsall, McHenry Public Library District, IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Series and historical fans are in for a treat. Jane Austen narrates her most recent adventure, wherein she journeys to the ruins of nearby Netley Abbey to secretly retrieve a hidden parcel for an acquaintance of some importance. She not only finds the parcel but also a dying man. With literate prose, this is a tasteful diversion. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.