After all, this is the thirteenth novel in a series that I've always been meaning to read at some point yet never have gotten beyond the first couple of pages with any of the prior books. Well, I'm happy to report that J&TWM was as comfortable to slip into as a pair of gloves, with a nice new lining that made it feel fresh and new.
It does help greatly if you're familiar with Jane Austen's bio, as our story begins in 1815 where Jane has gone to London to look after her brother Henry, who is experiencing some ill health and a bad run on his finances, due to the outcome of the recent war with Napoleon. Her visit is twofold, as preparations for her next novel Emma are underway and while she waits for the galleys for her editorial approval, an unusual invitation comes her way.
The Prince Regent's chaplain, James Stanier Clarke, extends an offer on the behalf of HRH(who happens to be a fan of her novels) to take a tour of Carlton House and even make use of the royal library to work in while she's in town. Despite her keen distaste for the Prince Regent, Jane is well aware of how beneficial to her book sales such a connection would be, so she accepts the invitation and endures the rattling company of Clarke, who has a lot more in common with a certain Mr. Collins that he realizes:
Before she can properly consider that idea, a shocking discovery in the library changes the course of the day quite completely In a corner, a dying man is discovered and as Clarke rushes off to get the court physician Matthew Baillie, Jane alone hears his last words:"Waterloo map!"
The victim turns out to be a military man, Colonel MacFarland, who was one of the heroes of the battle of Waterloo. The map in question is soon found in a book and has a brief letter written in French on the back, urging it's intended reader to protect the map as it leads to something that Napoleon himself would be eager to claim upon the outcome of the battle:
In her quest to find the killer as well as discover the true purpose of the map, Jane enlists the aid of Raphael West, son of renowned artist Benjamin West, who happens to also be a government spy.
Even her visiting niece Fanny does a little undercover work, posing as a budding painter in order to draw out the actual artist who drew up the map and who also might be the murderer:
This investigation is not without risks, as Jane rather painfully discovers and while her injuries are slight, the real danger to her allies is all too heavy to bear. Can the Waterloo map lead them all to justice or to more horrible crimes yet to come?
Stephanie Barron has a sure and steady hand in creating this mystery realm for Jane Austen and her blend of fact and fiction(well assisted with a few historical footnotes) makes for a tempting tea cup of tension that is worth slowly sipping through page by page.
I do wish that I had taken on her books much sooner but regrets in reading can be quickly remedied by a good book or two and fortunately, the pleasure of catching with this engaging series is soon to be mine. Jane and the Waterloo Map may be a unlikely start for a newcomer but it's a very agreeable one and there is no doubt that regular fans of this series will be pleased with this current gem.
Austenprose is posting today.
You can also leave comments at the other tour stops, such as the next stop at Mystery Fanfare on Monday and Laura's Reviews on the following Tuesday. The deadline is February 29 and the winners will be announced on March 3 at Stephanie Barron's official website, so make haste, I beg you!
And in the spirit of the day, I wish you all a very happy Valentine's Day with a special hope that Jane Austen's wonderful world of romance adds greatly to your happiness: