From the desk of Christina Boyd:
As a fan of the Being Jane Austen Mystery series, I have been all anticipation for the latest edition, Jane and the Waterloo Map. Author Stephanie Barron knows her Austen lore, as well as a being a masterful storyteller and researcher; writing in a most Austen-like style. She is also The Incomparable when it comes to Regency mysteries. Given that disclaimer, and holding the series in much esteem, I feel quite at liberty to share my impressions herein.
The novel opens with our dear Miss Austen attending her sick brother Henry at his London residence while editing the proofs of her latest novel, Emma, for her publisher John Murray. Summoned to Carlton House, the opulent London mansion of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, Jane meets his toady Historiographer, Mr. James Stanier Clarke, who not only arrogantly invites her to use the Royal Library to write her next novel, but welcomes her to dedicate her work-in-progress to the Prince Regent himself. As she holds the prince and his profligate ways in contempt, Jane cautiously makes no commitment and politely continues on with the tour. Upon reaching the library, they come upon a Colonel MacFarland, the hero of Waterloo, collapsed upon the floor in an apoplectic fit. As Mr. Clarke finds help, the colonel utters his last words to Jane, “Waterloo map.” After a curious inspection of the colonel’s vomit, Jane speculates that the colonel may have been poisoned. The next day, word reaches her that the colonel did succumb, and it is not long before the royal physician confirms that the hero of Waterloo was murdered. Thus begins the intrigue—and danger—for our clever authoress as she exposes whodunit in this thirteenth of Stephanie Barron’s mystery series.
Likening Austen’s quality prose, Barron excels in credible dialog. Miss Austen’s voice, told from this fictional Jane Austen’s point-of-view, nearly flies off the page. While shopping for fabrics with her niece:
“Fanny mused, a hand caressing each. “One is so truly purple; but the other is far more attractive, for being rather less.” “Then buy Eleanor the purple and take the violet for yourself,” I advised. “A girl is never so happy in her friend’s appearance, then when she displays a superior taste.” (163)
What sharp wit!
I have long missed the Gentleman Rogue, Lord Harold Trowbridge, fellow detective, confident and romantic interest of Jane Austen, who has been absent since the seventh book in this series. In this accounting, our dear Miss Austen becomes reacquainted with the gallant and enigmatic artist, Raphael West, who aided her in solving another nefarious scheme the previous year in Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas. Because history has told us, Miss Austen, never married, and in this series, she must be nearing her own death, I yearn for this astute observer of the human heart to have had experienced a great love of her own…and here, West’s fine person and manners can do nothing but recommend himself to Jane (and this reader)!
“I nodded, my throat too tight for words. He retained my hand an instant, his eyes fixed on mine, then turned resolutely through the door. I am a liar if I said I attended to half what was said, for the remainder of dinner.” (169)
Jane admits to herself she had “known one such a man before, and lost him.” (160) I suppose it is only fair to allow her to tread carefully to safeguard her own heart.
Though the early pacing seemed slow in setting the scene and the players, once all the clues were laid out, the novel took off at breakneck speed. A watercolor map of Waterloo, yew needles, unsavory characters, beloved family members, captivating gentlemen, betrayals, secrecy, and a couple of red herrings color this mystery, I confess I was confounded until the last. One need not read the previous twelve novels to be entertained by Jane and the Waterloo Map. However, from one who has read this epic series in order, I recommend you follow my example to experience the full effect. You can thank me later.
5 out of 5 Stars
- Jane and the Waterloo Map: Being a Jane Austen Mystery (Book 13), by Stephanie Barron
- Soho Press (2016)
- Hardcover, eBook, and audiobook (320) pages
- ISBN: 978-1616954253
- Genre: Austenesque, Historical Mystery
We received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Soho Press © 2016; text Christina Boyd © 2016, austenprose.com.