To read Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen mysteries is to live as Jane. Jane Austen, the writer, is Jane Austen, the mystery solver, in this series of fun books. It’s the inside view of her daily (re-imagined) life that is so addicting.
The series, starting out with the first book called Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargave Manor, follows the actual events of Jane’s life. For instance, when Jane lives in Bath with her family, the book is set in that year. When Jane vacations in Lyme Regis, or in London with her brother, the books are then set there. These details are just one of the ways that the books seem so extraordinarily real. Jane’s voice in the series is sharp and funny and we get to hear how she thinks from the letters she writes to her sister Cassandra. The language is as deeply Britishy as any Anglophile could want. And since historians have the real letters Jane wrote to Cassandra, there is an echoing in the books that makes it very fun to read.
The mysteries themselves are worthy too. Stephanie Barron, the author, pretends that these stories are written by Jane Austen herself, but found in the old Baltimore home of some distant relatives of the Austen family. She claims that Jane Austen solved mysteries during her life and these are those accounts. It doesn’t matter to me how she explains it, because the series is so good.
The first novel begins just as Jane in real life has rejected her famous marriage proposal by Harris Bigg-Wither and is now at 27, considered nearly beyond any hope of being married. Despite that social condemnation, all these books see Jane engaged in both minor and major romantic entanglements. In this one, to distract herself from the aforementioned disastrous proposal of marriage, Jane goes to visit her friend at her manor in the English countryside and ends up perfectly engaged in solving a murder, saving her friend from the gallows, and meeting a very intriguing man who will prove to be a part of many of the other books.