JANE AND THE CANTERBURY TALE – Stephanie Barron
Being a Jane Austen Mystery, Book 11
Bantam Books (Trade Paperback)
Kent, England; 1813
While Jane makes an extended visit with her brother Edward and family at Edward's estate, Godmersham Park in Kent, they attend a wedding in the neighborhood. The bride, Adelaide Thane Fiske, had made a scandalous marriage when very young. But after Fiske's death abroad, Adelaide rehabilitated herself in Society, and is now making an eminently suitable match with Captain Andrew MacCallister. However, it seems the news of Fiske's death was premature, for on the morning after the wedding, his newly dead body is found by a hunting party made up of several of the gentlemen guests. At first, it was thought to be a mishap, that one of the young men accidentally shot a stranger—it wasn't until later that he was recognized as Curzon Fiske, Adelaide's husband! Jane is one of the first to be told of the body; she's out walking when an excited Fanny, her niece, runs to tell her. Then, of course, Edward, the district's first magistrate, must be called in to investigate.
The investigation takes many twists and turns what with the identity of the corpse being established, the approximate time of his death, and the fact that he was shot at close range with a pistol, and not a fowling piece as was first thought. Edward has a difficult task; so many of those affected—and possibly suspect—are his friends and neighbors. Jane, too, is deeply involved; it's not the first time a crime, even murder, has occurred in her vicinity. She has a sharp mind and a keen eye for human nature. And she's always on the look out for inspiration for her writing. At this time, she's concentrating on a new heroine, Emma, who has some traits in common with young Fanny.)
Though the tale has dire consequences for many involved and is an emotional time for everyone, Jane herself, with her cool and analytical voice narrates the whole in her Journal. Clues abound, but not all point unerringly at the truth. Also, there are occasional editorial footnotes that may or may not relate to real instances from Jane Austen's life. Certainly her family members are real, but it’s fun to speculate about other characters.
JANE AND THE CANTERBURY TALE is a fast, engaging read at only 300 or so pages. It follows ten earlier mysteries that, for the most part, stand well on their own, but read one, and you'll want more. And you don't have to be an Austen fan to enjoy them.
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