Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, August 11, 2017

My summer of Series-ous Reading introduces me to Jane and The Genius of the Place

For my summer selection in my Series-ous Reading challenge, I thought that the fourth book in Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen Mystery series,Jane and The Genius of the Place, would be a quick read.

 Turns out, it took longer than I expected(partly due to my putting it aside during the High Summer Readathon) but that is not the fault of the book at all.

Here, we come upon our Miss Austen during a visit to her brother Edward and his family at Kent in the year 1805. Jane, along with her delightful snarky sister-in-law Elizabeth and brother Henry Austen,attends the annual horse races in Canterbury and as soon as the main race is over and done with, a brutal murder is discovered to have taken place nearby.

 The victim is Francoise Grey, the youthful wife of well-established(and far older than she) banker Valentine Grey, found strangled by her own hair ribbon and placed in a carriage owned by Denys Collingforth, one of several men whom the lady was known to have a serious flirtation with.

Since Edward happens to be the local Justice of the Peace, he must investigate the crime and is willing to take assistance from any quarter, including Jane who he knows has prior experience in such matters.

 I really enjoyed that aspect of the story, not putting Jane in a position where she would have to sneak around for evidence(although she does a little of that) or have her input be ignored. Kind of gives the book a Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew vibe to it:

While Collingforth flees the scene, he is not the most likely candidate to have done away with Mrs. Grey as Jane and friends soon learn.

In addition to the other gentlemen callers she entertained, Francoise also received regular correspondence from her adoptive family back in France, a rather difficult  thing to do given the tensions between Napoleonic France and England during such a time.

Her main correspondent was the Comte de Penfleur, who is said to have had strong affections for Francoise and less than thrilled that she married Valentine as part of a business alliance at best. Was it a jealous lover, a jealous husband or another party who unwittingly shared secrets with the seductive Mrs. Grey who made her last time on horseback a truly final finish?:

While Jane and her brothers look into some of the inconsistencies of Francoise's death-how was it that the lady was seen by all to be riding away from the races yet found only a short time later in Collingforth's carriage without her signature red riding coat?-a new source of intrigue enters the scene.

Julian Sothey, a "Gentleman Improver" happened to be a trusted guest at the estate of the Greys, giving helpful hints as to the renovation of the grounds and quite the charming fellow to boot. His sudden appearance catches many a lady's eye but is he truly trustworthy?

 Jane does find him agreeable company but soon suspects that Julian knows more than he's telling and perhaps answers can be found in the confidence of Anne Sharpe, governess to Jane's young niece Fanny, who seems to know Julian far better than she respectably should:

The story does take a couple of twists and turns that I didn't expect yet all in all, it was engaging to read. I did adore Elizabeth, who seemed to have a droll remark for every occasion, and while I did wish for a slightly more dramatic ending, this did work out well.

I did think that I would be spending more of my summer reading with a much longer book for Series-ous Reading but a change of plans can be good, so I'll finish out the remainder of this season with Daniel O'Malley's The Rook, the first in the Checquy Files series.

This supernatural spy story has a very inventive blend of Jason Bourne meets Atomic Blonde with a sharp tang of Buffy the Vampire Slayer laced with Kingsmen. Sounds a bit all over the place but trust me, this novel is more organized than my description of it. So, see you all in September with more Series-ous Reading to come:

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