Jane and the Canterbury Tale: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron – A Review

Jane and the Cantebury Tale, by Stephanie Barron (2011)There is a trail that winds through the edge of the grand country estate of Godmersham Park in Kent owned by Edward Austen-Knight, elder brother of the authoress Jane Austen. Pilgrims have traversed this foot-path for centuries on their way to the shrine of the martyr Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Chaucer based his famous narrative, The Canterbury Tales, on pilgrims who travel across this path. Author Stephanie Barron places her eleventh novel in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series in this rich, historical environment and spins a fascinating murder mystery to rival any story offered by the Knight, the Nun or the Miller in Chaucer’s original.

In the fall of 1813, while visiting her wealthy, widowed brother Edward at his grand estate in Kent, Jane attends a wedding at the neighboring Chilham Castle. Joined that day in connubial bliss are the beautiful young widow, Adelaide Fiske, and the dashing Captain Andrew McCallister. Jane’s young niece Fanny Austen-Knight is also in attendance and being courted by a queue of eager Beaux. While locals John Plumptre, James Wildman and George Finch-Hatton watch her dance the waltz with visiting dandy Julian Thane, a footman delivers a curious gift to the bride, a silken reticule that she accepts with some trepidation. Inside are dried brown beans. Jane is quick to observe that the bride’s reaction must have some hidden meaning.

The following morning a man is found dead upon the pilgrim’s path on the Godmersham estate near the ancient parish church dedicated to St Lawrence the Martyr.  At first it is thought that he was felled by a stray hunting shot by one of the young local men out for a mornings sport of pheasant, but Jane sees the signs of an entirely different transgression. Her brother Edward, First Magistrate for Canterbury, is called to the scene and concurs that this was no hunting accident. The corner arrives to offer his assessment and soon discoveres that the deceased is none other than Curzon Fiske, the thought to be dead first husband of the recently married Adelaide, who after abandoning his wife in a flight from his creditors four years prior, departed for India and died there. Inside the depths of his coat pocket was a stained note with St Lawrence Church written upon it and one dried brown bean – an ominous tamarind seed.

As the mystery swiftly unfolds we are privy to an interesting collection of characters who each have their own tale to tell: a grieving widower, a young girl experiencing romance and heartbreak, an odious clergyman, a Bond Street Beau, a loose maid, a callous and calculating mother, and our adventurous detective Jane Austen, ever observant, always witty, relaying all of their stories in her journal and cleverly solving the crime.

Each chapter is epigraphed by pertinent quotes from Chaucer’s tale and every word of this novel is a treasure. Barron is a Nonpareil in channeling my dear Jane. After eleven novels I never doubt her historical detail or unerring voice. This may be the last in the series, and I am sorely grieved at the loss. Jane and the Canterbury Tale is engaging, rich and dramatic. The ending is a shock, but not nearly as devastating as the possibility of the demise of this series.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my ninth selection in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011, as we are reading all eleven mysteries in the series this year. Participants, please leave comments and or place links to your reviews on the official reading challenge page by following this link.

Grand Giveaway

Author Stephanie Barron has generously offered a signed paperback copy of Jane and the Canterbury Tale to one lucky winner. Leave a comment stating what intrigues you about Jane Austen as a detective, or if you have read Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tale, which was your favorite character by midnight PT, Wednesday, September 21, 2011. Winner to be announced on Thursday, September 22, 2011. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck!

Jane and the Canterbury Tale: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron
Bantam Books, NY (2011)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-0553386714

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

26 thoughts on “Jane and the Canterbury Tale: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, by Stephanie Barron – A Review

  1. All things Jane!!! The JA mysteries have fueled my passion for JA’s writing. Having read all of her works as a younger woman, finding Stephanie Barron’s series rekindled my love for Jane. I have since devoured everything I could find on JA and her fan fiction. This series coming to it’s inevitable end is sad indeed. Thank you Laurel Ann for being so faithful to extol praise on such a worthy author and body of work.

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  2. i luv what Stephanie does in making JA the MC focus rather than one of Jane’s own characters! her portrayal of Jane as detective is an intriguing way of bringing Jane to life for us & with her keen insights it actually seems a very real possibility…that’s what intrigues me! thanks Stephanie, for keeping us reading JA!

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  3. I am really excited about this one. I have read Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tale and loved it so I can’t wait to see what parts are quoted in this book.

    I have even gotten my stepmom into reading these, she had never heard of them before either.

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  4. I think Jane Austen would be a great detective. She must have been highly intelligent and we know she was ahead of her time by the themes I her novels. I don’t see it has much of a stretch to have her as a detective.

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  5. Jane would be a great detective because she was a watcher of people and their idiosyncrasies. I love all things Jane so would love to read this book.

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  6. Jane, as a detective, is a very believable premise. She is very smart, not intimidated, and not taken in by the obvious. She was also an exceptional judge of character and understood human behavior. She also seemed very logical, or so this is how Ms. Barron has portrayed her to be in this series. Everything fits together. I really enjoy this series and I do hope that it doesn’t come to a permanent end.

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  7. Almost anything that gives me more Jane to feed on is wonderful to me, and especially the Jane Austen mysteries. I’ve always liked mystery novels. I grew up reading Jane Austen’s and Agatha Christie’s work, so to combine these elements makes the series one of my all time favorites. I’ve read bits and pieces of Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tale” but I didn’t get much out of it at the time. Perhaps this will inspire me to look into it again. Definitely looking forward to reading this and future Jane Austen mysteries!

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  8. I haven’t got this book and I’ve been doing the reading challenge. I’m reading book 9 now. I love this series and can’t wait to see Stephanie Barron at the AGM!

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  9. This book sounds like one that will keep me up all night to finish it! My favorite character in the Canterbury Tales has to be the Wife of Bath.

    I would cherish a copy of the new book.

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  10. I have read first three books in this mystery series. Jane make a excellent detective with her intelligence and curious observer of human relationships. I love the attention to historical details and also interweaving of all these stories with real incidents in her life. I would love to have copy of this new book.

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  11. I think Jane makes an excellent detective as she is always observing the world around her, quietly making note of what is happening.
    LOVE these books!!!

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  12. I have enjoyed reading this series. Stephanie’s depiction of Jane makes this series stand out from all the other JA fiction. I just finished this book yesterday and enjoyed it just as much as the others. Jane is a wonderful at solving mysteries and I hope she has the chance to solve more.

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  13. Before I read your books and I have read all of them (-;, I would never have thought of Jane Austen as a detective, but after starting the first book I realized- of course she would make a great detective. Being a quiet spinster lady who can observe all around her and being a lady with a first class mind to piece together what she has observed into a trail to a criminal would make her a great sleuth.
    I am looking forward to reading Canterbury Tales.
    Thanks,
    Sally

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  14. I have a couple of books in this series, and this sounds like another to add to my already HUGE list of books “to read”! LOL Great review!

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  15. It’s so great to read all the comments about Jane as detective….the willing suspension of disbelief in readers is every writer’s goal, and if my version of Jane succeeds, I’ve nothing more to wish for. Happy reading, everyone!

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  16. What I enjoy about these mysteries is that we get a glimpse into aspects life that Jane Austen herself did not discuss much in her novels. For example, I liked reading about the Newgate Prison and the conditions that prisoners had to live in.

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  17. I’m so excited about this book! JA would make a wonderful detective … she is able to see everything, make sense out of it, put it the right order and figure it all out… which is way more than I can say for myself! *-* Once I’m able I will be getting (beg, borrow or steal..ok, not steal..well, no promises *.*) all these books and reading until I can no longer see straight!

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  18. Stephanie, if you read this, I love all your books in this series! I’m writing a Jane Austen-themed novel myself at the moment, and one of my greatest pleasure is to take one of your Jane Austen Mysteries to bed with me and read a few chapters! It’s a wonderful addition to the Austen novels, which I keep re-reading endlessly, to keep Jane’s voice in my head (as you do so well in your books.)

    Jane is the perfect detective because she’s highly intelligent, very observant, detail-oriented, and tenacious. She used to write an entire novel in one year by quill pen, then recopy the entire thing by hand–no easy task. She must have encountered plot and character problems, yet in nearly all cases, she finished what she started–another admirable quality in a detective. I would LOVE to win this book!

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