Preview of Murder Most Austen: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely

Darcy VS Hathaway ???

My faithful readers will know how much I love a good mystery. I follow the Masterpiece Mystery series Inspector Lewis on PBS with a bloody passion, and when I am not reading Austenesque books, I can be found with my nose in a good whodunit. If pressed I will admit with reluctance that Mr. Darcy would win in a throw down against Sargent Hathaway. Now, if it was Henry Tilney vs. Hathaway, well that’s a no brainer.

Some of favorite mystery authors are: Tasha Alexander, Dashiell Hammett, Jacqueline Winspear, Alexander McCall Smith and Georgette Heyer. Top on my mysteries “to be read” list is Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. Highly recommended by Austenesque author Diana Birchall (Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma), it is one of her all-time favorite books no less. How could I have missed it?

Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge 2011Occasionally, authors indulge me and combine my two favorite diversions: mystery and Jane Austen. It is like a left, right punch to my reading sensibilities. I get a bit light headed at the thought of it. I have devoured all eleven Stephanie Barron’s Being A Jane Austen Mystery Series and all six of Carrie Bebris’ Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries as they arrived. Now I am in for a treat. The fourth Elizabeth Parker Mysteries by Tracy Kiely is due out tomorrow, September 4th. I am all anticipation…

Murder Most Austen is set in the historic Georgian-era spa town of Bath, England (deep into Janeite territory) where Elizabeth Parker and her Aunt Winnie (who we were first introduced to in Murder at Longbourn) meet an odious professor who claims that Austen’s texts have hidden sexual subplots (take note Arnie Perlstein) and that Austen’s death was not by natural causes (yes, you too Lindsay Ashford). LOL. Is this art imitating life, or, Kiely’s tongue-in-cheek jab at modern Austen culture? Anyway, the pompous professor is bumped off while wearing his Mr. Darcy costume during a ball. Poetic justice you ask? You be the judge. Here is the publisher’s description:

Murder Most Austen, by Tracy Kiely (2012)A dedicated Anglophile and Janeite, Elizabeth Parker is hoping the trip to the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath will distract her from her lack of a job and her uncertain future with her boyfriend, Peter.

On the plane ride to England, she and Aunt Winnie meet Professor Richard Baines, a self-proclaimed expert on all things Austen. His outlandish claims that within each Austen novel there is a sordid secondary story is second only to his odious theory on the true cause of Austen’s death. When Baines is found stabbed to death in his Mr. Darcy costume during the costume ball, it appears that Baines’s theories have finally pushed one Austen fan too far. But Aunt Winnie’s friend becomes the prime suspect, so Aunt Winnie enlists Elizabeth to find the professor’s real killer. With an ex-wife, a scheming daughter-in-law, and a trophy wife, not to mention a festival’s worth of die-hard Austen fans, there are no shortage of suspects.

This fourth in Tracy Kiely’s charming series is pure delight. If Bath is the number-one Mecca for Jane Austen fans, Murder Most Austen is the perfect read for those who love some laughs and quick wit with their mystery.

Excerpt of Murder Most Austen

CHAPTER 1

There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.” —PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

IF I HAD KNOWN that someone was going to kill the man sitting in 4B three days hence, I probably wouldn’t have fantasized about doing the deed myself.

Probably.

However, as it stood, I didn’t have this knowledge. The only knowledge I did have was that he was a pompous ass and had not stopped talking once in the last two hours.

“Of course, only the truly clever reader can discern that it is beneath Austen’s superficial stories that the real narrative lies. Hidden beneath an attractive veil of Indian muslin, Austen presents a much darker world. It is a sordid world of sex, both heterosexual and homosexual, abortions, and incest. It is in highlighting these darker stories to the less perceptive reader that I have devoted my career,” the man was now saying to his seatmate.

I guessed him to be in his late fifties. He was tall and fair, with those WASPy good looks that lend themselves well to exclusive men’s clubs, the kinds that still exclude women and other dangerous minorities. His theories were so patently absurd that at first I’d found his commentary oddly entertaining. However, as Austen herself observed, of some delights, a little goes a long way.

This was rapidly becoming one of those delights.

From the manner in which the young woman to his right gazed at him with undisguised awe, it was clear that she did not share my desire to duct-tape his mouth shut. Her brown eyes were not rolling back into her head with exasperation; rather, they were practically sparkling with idolization from behind her wire-framed glasses. While both our faces were flushed from his words, the cause for the heightened color on her elfin features stemmed from reverence; the cause of mine was near-boiling irritation.

Read the full excerpt

Watch for Austenprose’s Kimberly Denny-Ryder’s review of Murder Most Austen to be posted here on Wednesday, September 12th.

Read our previous reviews of Tracy Kiely’s Elizabeth Parker Mysteries

Murder Most Austen: A Mystery (Elizabeth Parker Mysteries #4), by Tracy Kiely
Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books (2012)
Hardcover (304) pages
ISBN: 978-1250007421

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose
© Tracy Kiely, Macmillan

Jane and the Canterbury Tale: Being a Jane Austen Mystery (Book 11), 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 morning’s 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 coroner arrives to offer his assessment and soon discovers 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 (Book 11), by Stephanie Barron
Bantam Books, NY (2011)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-0553386714

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Murder Most Persuasive Blog Tour with Author Tracy Kiely

Murder Most Persuasive: A Mystery, by Tracy Kiely (2011)Please join us today in welcoming author Tracy Kiely on her blog tour in celebration of the release of Murder Most Persuasive: A Mystery, a new Persuasion-inspired mystery novel published today by Minotaur Books.

Murder, Jane Austen, and Me  

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was little. That’s not to say that I was one of those child prodigies who effortlessly create witty/insightful/touching tomes at a tender age, and land on the couch with Ophra. Far from it. In fact, here’s a little sample of one of my earliest works that proves my point quite nicely. It was my first (and, thankfully, only) attempt at poetry. Ready? Here goes:

The rain comes down

Upon the ground

Will it ever stop?

I’ll get the mop.

See, what I mean? But, despite my rather shaky start, I still loved the idea of being a writer. As the years went by, I narrowed that down to being a mystery writer. Growing up, I spent a great deal of time reading Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, and watching Alfred Hitchcock movies. I loved the twisty, deviously clever plots of Christie, the sublime wit of Austen, and the “average man caught in extraordinary circumstances” themes of Hitchcock.

Anyway, when I began to think of writing my own mystery, I realized it would have to include those elements. As I struggled to come up with something in the way of a viable storyline, the characters of Pride and Prejudice kept swirling around in my head. It dawned on me that while there is no murder in Pride and Prejudice, there are plenty of characters who certainly inspire murderous thoughts. I began to wonder, what, if after years of living with unbearably rude and condescending behavior, old Mrs. Jenkins up and strangled Lady Catherine? Or, if one day Charlotte snapped and poisoned Mr. Collins’ toast and jam? I realized that most likely no one would be surprised had Jane written these plot twists into follow-up versions of her books as these characters were exactly the sort of odious creatures that would be bumped of in a mystery novel.

But, I didn’t want to write a period piece, and I definitely didn’t want to take over existing characters and try and make them my own. It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading other authors who do exactly that. It’s just as Dirty Harry once said in one of his movies, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”  I know mine, and recreating Elizabeth and Darcy is not one of then.  So, I instead I tried to figure out a way to work in the themes and personality clashes of Pride and Prejudice into a modern-day mystery. Continue reading “Murder Most Persuasive Blog Tour with Author Tracy Kiely”

Jane and the Canterbury Tale Blog Tour with Author Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Cantebury Tale, by Stephanie Barron (2011)Please join us today in welcoming author Stephanie Barron on her book blog tour in celebration of her eleventh novel in the Being a Jane Austen Mysteries series, Jane and the Canterbury Tale to be released tomorrow by Bantam Books.

Walking Godmersham in Search of a Tale

About a dozen years or so ago, when my elder son was still a toddler and my younger not yet born, I left Sam in the care of a nanny and his dad, and wandered around England alone.  I had ten days to myself, and the trip would have been intensely boring to anybody but me—no Tower of London, no Blenheim, no flying trip to Warwick Castle.  The itinerary was entirely dictated by places Jane Austen had lived.  I had written two books about her and intended to write more; but I needed a visual sense of all the places she had known, or could possibly have used herself as settings for her novels.

In some cases, it was easy to find her—in Bath, for example, where a cottage industry in Austen Walking Tours is thriving.  Other places were more challenging.  I was intrigued by the possibility that Jane had actually visited the town of Bakewell in Derbyshire, three miles from the ducal seat of Chatsworth—a town she actually mentions in Pride and Prejudice, although tradition insists she was never there.  She might have gone to Bakewell, possibly, while spending six weeks with her cousin Edmund Cooper in his tiny village of Hamstall-Ridware, Staffordshire.  Having seen the easy places—Portsmouth and Southampton, Chawton and Bath, Hans Crescent in London—I threw myself behind the right-handed wheel of a rented car and took to the carriageways, as highways are called in England.  They terrified me.  I consistently made the mistake of hugging the right lane of multi-lane roads, thinking it would be the “slow” lane—except, of course, in a reverse-world it was the fast lane, and I was the object of frustration and ridicule. Continue reading “Jane and the Canterbury Tale Blog Tour with Author Stephanie Barron”

Jane and the Wandering Eye: Being a Jane Austen Mystery (Book 3), by Stephanie Barron – A Review

Jane and the Wandering Eye, by Stephanie Barron (1998)I confess to being a silly, shallow creature when it comes to my partiality to fine art and the stage. Show me a beautiful Regency-era portrait by Thomas Lawrence or Richard Cosway, mention famous Drury Lane actors Sarah Siddons and her brothers Charles and John Kemble, and my sensibilities rival Marianne Dashwood’s fondness for dead leaves. Mix in my favorite author Jane Austen embroiled in a murder mystery centered around artists and actors in Bath, and I am in a sensory swoon.

Jane and the Wandering Eye is the third novel in the popular Being a Jane Austen Mystery series in which the famous authoress uses her astute skills of observation and logic as an amateur sleuth to solve a crime. In 1804 Jane, her sister Cassandra and their parents are residing in Bath. Despite the jollity of the Christmas season, Jane is “insupportably bored with Bath” and its social diversions, many of which are outside her means. She is, however, happy to accept a commission from her particular friend and Rogue-about-Town Lord Harold Trowbridge to spy on his niece Lady Desdemona. The young ingénue has recently fled London and the unwanted attentions of the Earl of Swithins to seek refuge in Bath with her grandmother the Dowager Duchess of Wilborough. Jane, her brother Henry and his wife Eliza attend a masquerade party at the Duchesses Laura Place residence in honor of Bath’s Theatre Royal players. Also in attendance is Madame Lefroy, Jane’s neighbor, and dearest friend. During the party they witness a drama unfold as tragic as any Shakespearean play. The theatre troupe’s stage manager Richard Portal is found stabbed to death with Lord Harold’s nephew Simon, Marquis of Kinsfell standing over him with a bloody knife in his hand and an open window behind him.

Mr. Elliot the local magistrate is summoned and witnesses questioned. Since everyone was in costume it is difficult to follow the events of the evening, but he soon learns that the key suspect, the Marquis in the Knight costume, was seen arguing with the victim, Mr. Portal in a white Harlequin costume, and challenged him to a duel. They were separated and Mr. Portal was asked to leave the party, later reappearing as a corpse in an anteroom with a knife through his heart. Curiously, a miniature portrait of an eye is found on his body. Under protest, the Marquis is charged with murder and thrown in the local goal. What started out for Jane as a mild request to observe and report on Lord Harold’s niece has now turned into a scandalous murder by his nephew, drawing him to Bath, and into Jane’s confidence. Taken with his charm, intelligence, and family drama, she cannot refuse him anything and they join forces to investigate the facts, unravel the crime, and discover the murderer.

Warning. If you blink too long in the first chapter you might miss significant clues. Stephanie Barron hardly lets us breathe for fear we would miss something. The dense and fast-paced events had me furiously writing notes to keep the facts and characters straight. It is unusual to have a murder transpire so quickly, but I enjoyed the build-up and the shock of the reveal. The mystery progresses from Jane Austen’s perspective as we read her lost journals edited by the author with added footnotes. The historical detail is entrancing to me. Not only do we follow events and people from Jane Austen’s life, but the social and cultural details were amazing in their depth and interest. At times I found the prose thick and heavy, craving a bit of brevity in the language, but overall Barron does an excellent job at early nineteenth-century Austen-speak. Her dialogue was even more engaging. The characterization of Jane’s parents Rev. and Mrs. Austen’s ironic divergence in personalities was entertaining, her brother Henry and gadabout wife Eliza’s joie de vivre delightful, and roguish Lord Harold was well, just dishy enough to curl any hard-hearted spinsters toes. *swoon*

Having the advantage of previously reading all the novels in this series before, I can firmly attest that Jane and the Wandering Eye is my favorite in the series. I loved the historical detail on art and the lives of its creators, actors and their social machinations with aristocrats, and all the intimate dealing of Jane Austen and her family. Originally published in 1998, I can honestly say that with a decade of study and appreciation of the Regency-era behind me, this mystery was even fresher, more intriguing, and enlightening the second time around. I recommend it highly.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane and the Wandering Eye, by Stephanie Barron
Random House (1998)
Mass Market Paperback (336) pages
ISBN: 978-0553578171

This is my third selection in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011. You can still join the reading challenge in progress until July 1, 2011. 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 hardcover copy of Jane and Wandering Eye to one lucky winner. Leave a comment stating what intrigues you about this novel, or if you have read it, who your favorite character is by midnight PT, Wednesday, March 16, 2011. Winner to be announced on Thursday, March 17, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Further reading

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011

Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge 2011We love a good mystery – and when that mystery is combined with our favorite author Jane Austen – all is right in our reading world. Happily, since 1996 we have been spoiled beyond measure with author Stephanie Barron’s Being a Jane Austen Mystery series.

About every year or so a new novel has appeared and been promptly devoured. This last fall we had the honor of reading Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron, the tenth mystery in the series. It reminded us again what a great writer she is. “For fourteen years, and to much acclaim, she has channeled our Jane beyond her quiet family circle into sleuthing adventures with lords, ladies and murderers. Cleverly crafted, this historical detective series incorporates actual events from Jane Austen’s life with historical facts from her time all woven together into mysteries that of course, only our brilliant Jane can solve.”

Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011

We are very pleased to announce the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011. If you have not discovered one of her wonderful mysteries, this is a great opportunity to join the challenge along with other Janeites, historical fiction and mystery lovers.

Novels in the Series

Challenge Details

Continue reading “Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011”

Preview: Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron, by Stephanie Barron

Good news Janeites! The four year wait for the next novel in the Jane Austen Mysteries series by Stephanie Barron is almost over. On September 28th, 2010, Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron will be available to quell that consuming need to feed your murder and mayhem meets Austen passion.

Marking the tenth book in this critically acclaimed series, the story set in 1813 throws Jane into a murder investigation in Brighton (oh, won’t Kitty & Lydia Bennet be thrilled) involving that infamous mad, bad and dangerous to know poet of the Regency-era. Here is the publisher’s description:

The restorative power of the ocean draws Jane Austen and her beloved brother Henry to the seaside, after Henry’s wife Eliza is lost to a long illness. But Brighton, a glittering resort overrun by London’s Fashionables, is scarcely peaceful. Not long after their arrival, Jane finds herself caught up in the town’s turmoil when the body of a beautiful young society miss is discovered, lifeless, in the bedchamber of none other than George Gordon—otherwise known as Lord Byron.

Byron has already carved out a shocking reputation for himself, both as a poet and as a seducer of women—swooning legions of whom seem to follow wherever he treads. Yet until this moment, no one thought him capable of murder. Now it falls to Jane to pursue this puzzling investigation and discover just how “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” Byron truly is. And she must do so without falling victim to the charming versifier’s legendary charisma, lest she too become a cautionary example for the ages.

I for one am swooning over the beautiful cover (Is that out Jane looking so seductively fetching?) and all anticipation of yet another thrilling whodunit involving our Bardess of Basingstoke solving murderous deeds.

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