JANE AND THE GENIUS OF THE PLACE: Being the Fourth Jane Austen Mystery.

Barron, Stephanie (pseudonym of Francine Mathews.)

ISBN 10: 055310733X / ISBN 13: 9780553107333
Published by New York: Bantam, (1999.) dj, 1999
Hardcover
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SIGNED hardcover first edition - First printing. The fourth in this delightful series with Jane Austen off to the Canterbury races with the rich and the fashionable. SIGNED on the title page. Editor's foreword. x, 290 pp. Fine in a fine dust jacket (as new.). Bookseller Inventory # 60233

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Bibliographic Details

Title: JANE AND THE GENIUS OF THE PLACE: Being the ...

Publisher: New York: Bantam, (1999.) dj

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

In three highly diverting mysteries, Jane Austen has shown herself a clever hand at unraveling the deadly knots woven by the unscrupulous.  Now, in her latest engrossing adventure, Jane is called upon to solve a shattering crime that may begin and end in one man's heart--or encompass the fate of an entire nation.

In the waning days of summer, Jane Austen is off to the Canterbury Races, where the rich and fashionable go to gamble away their fortunes.  It is an atmosphere ripe for scandal.  But even Jane is unprepared for the shocking drama that ensues when a raven-haired wanton in a scarlet riding habit takes center stage.  She is Françoise Grey, a flamboyant French beauty who has cast a spell over the gentlemen of Kent...and her unbridled behavior at the races invites the most scandalous speculation.

What can Mrs. Grey be thinking, Jane wonders, to so brazenly strike a gentleman with her whip? And what recklessness then spurs her to leap the rail on her fleet black horse and join the race? Only hours after Mrs. Grey has departed the race grounds in triumph will Jane realize the full import of her questions.  For in a shabby chaise less than a hundred feet from where Jane sat, the impossible is revealed: Mrs. Grey's lifeless body, gruesomely strangled, her ruby riding habit nowhere to be found.

As those around her rush to arrest the owner of the chaise--a known scoundrel with eyes for Françoise--Jane looks further afield to find a number of others behaving oddly, including the dashing military man caught rifling through the dead woman's desk, the widower who does not appear to be grieving, and the shy governess curiously overpowered by the horror of the Frenchwoman's death.

As rumors spread like wildfire that Napoleon's fleet is bound for Kent, Jane begins to suspect that Françoise Grey's murder was an act of war rather than a crime of passion.  The peaceful fields of Kent have become a very dangerous place...and Jane's thirst for justice may exact the steepest price of all--her life.

Deliciously sinister and splendidly wrought, Jane and the Genius of the Place is a stylish puzzler that only the incomparable Jane Austen could hope to crack.  And in her capable hands, the solving of it is a pleasure to watch.

Review:

Serious scholars might disagree, but it seems to at least one amateur Austenite that Stephanie Barron has captured Jane Austen's voice perfectly in her scrupulously researched and scrumptuously written mysteries starring the celebrated English novelist. "There are not many uses for a baronet's daughter, but the steady management of a gentleman's household may safely be described as one of them," Barron writes in the fourth book in this remarkable series, a line that could have been plucked from anywhere in the actual canon. Jane is talking about her sister-in-law Elizabeth, who runs her brother Edward's Godmersham estate in Kent. It's here that Jane comes for a visit in the summer of 1805--and gets caught up not only in a murder mystery but the planned invasion of England by Napoleon, which ended in the Battle of Trafalgar.

Austen, of course, had all the qualities of a good detective: the superb attention to detail, fervid imagination, and salty disdain for pretension. Barron makes excellent use of these attributes, plopping Jane Poirot-like into the middle of a crime at the Canterbury Races, then surrounding her with mysterious and possibly sinister figures involved in aiding or thwarting Napoleon's plans.

The writing, as stylized as it is ("There is nothing like the country for the rapid communication of what is dreadful"), never gets in the way of Barron's carefully plotted story, and in the end most readers will find they've managed to satisfy their appetites both for Austen and for mystery. First-timers will be delighted to hear that the three earlier books in Barron's series (Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, Jane and the Man of the Cloth, and Jane and the Wandering Eye) are available in paperback. --Dick Adler

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