Friday, August 8, 2008
Jane and The Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron
On a visit to the estate of her friend, the young and beautiful Isobel Payne, Countess of Scargrave, Jane bears witness to a tragedy. Isobel's husband—a gentleman of mature years—is felled by a mysterious and agonizing ailment. The Earl's death seems a cruel blow of fate for the newly married Isobel. Yet the bereaved widow soon finds that it's only the beginning of her misfortune...as she receives a sinister missive accusing her and the Earl's nephew of adultery—and murder. Desperately afraid that the letter will expose her to the worst sort of scandal, Isobel begs Jane for help. And Jane finds herself embroiled in a perilous investigation that will soon have her following a trail of clues that leads all the way to Newgate Prison and the House of Lords—a trail that may well place Jane's own person in the gravest jeopardy.
Continuing with my love of all things Jane Austen (and there are plenty of them out there) I decided to read this cozy mystery. A fictional account that makes of Austen a detective trying to discover what really happened to her friend Isobel's husband and why.
In the beginning the author writes how Jane Austen's notes where found in a family home and how the story is the result of the edition of those notes. Although it is a work of fiction Barron does provide notes on some of the people Jane Austen socialized with and also about the customs, manners and rules of conduct. I did find that part interesting but I had a really hard time getting into the Jane Austen's voice she writes. I just couldn't believe it and after a while I gave up thinking of it like a real person and decided to just enjoy the cozy mystery.
My problem with the mystery is that I found it a bit slow paced, it was only around page 150 that things got interesting, when the investigation on the murder starts, but even after that the action is too slow and it takes a lot of time for the truth to be uncovered. Although I did not guess the culprit till he is uncovered there's no sense of suspense and the characters all have something to hide which makes it a bit of a heavy reading and at times even boring. There were also too many main characters and I was sometimes distracted by trying to link them with each other.
Despite the interesting tidbits of information provided I find that I couldn't believe in Jane Austen as the main character nor was I drawn to the mystery itself.