This is the first Jane Austen mystery. If you read the introduction, you’ll discover that the author got her hands on some letters written by Jane Austen. They were found in an old house that was owned by a friend of hers. The author is of the opinion that as Austen was an astute judge of character and human emotion she would have made an excellent detective. There were some mysterious goings-on in the letters, and the author capitalized on it. I highly recommend the whole series. What is also nice about it is that the author puts in footnotes to better understand the British gentry system of that day.
Point of interest: my sister amused herself by coming up with a ghetto name to get this book to appeal to a wider demographic. Unfortunately, I cannot or should not post what she said on this site. However, if you really wish to know, email me. It’s rather amusing! Although my mother might disagree.
The story starts off with Jane visiting her friend Isobel Payne who is recent become the Countess of Scargrave. Her husband is a much older man well not really much older; only 48. Her husband dies suddenly and quite suspiciously. Soon after a letter arrives accusing the now Dowager Countess of doing away with her own husband and accusing she and the Earl’s nephew of adultery. She asks Jane for help. The Countess and Lord Fitzroy Payne had romantic interest in each other back in the day. Makes things a little sticky.
The mystery is solved using character analysis as well as understanding the British way of inheritance. As this a a short book I will not include the ending. But it will surprise you. I didn’t figure out who done it till right before the end.
This book is rated
In this book we are introduced to a cast of characters that closely depict the characters Jane created in her books. The author’s theory seems to be that Jane created her characters from the people she met in life. From this series we see the following parallels
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are her parents
Jane Bennet is her sister Cassandra
Lord Fitzroy Payne is Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.
A word on the British Peerage: here is the list of titles in descending rank and their female counterparts
Duke and Duchess referred to as “Your Grace”
Marquis and Marchioness “The Most Honorable the Marquis of X”
Earl and Countess “The Earl of X” or Earl X
Viscount/Count and Vicountess “The Viscount X of Y” or “The Viscount X”
Baron and Baroness “The Right Honorable The Lord”
Other little interesting fun facts. Most of the peers held more than one title. If they had sons and grandsons these used the lesser titles.
For Example His Grace the Duke of Glascow, Earl of Pembroke, and Count of Steyne. The current duke would use Duke as his title. His son would use the title Earl, and the grandson would be Count. If the current duke passes away his son and daughter in law ascend to his title. The former duke’s wife would be known as the Dowager Duchess. The Dowager term applies to all titles. In informal situations the term Lord is used to apply to the men and Lady to the women. Now in cases where the wife is not of the peerage, she is referred to as Lady Surname. Whereas if she were a daughter of a peer she would be addressed as Lady First name.
In Britain only the eldest son was considered a noble. The rest of the children were considered commoners. The younger children were given courtesy titles during their life, but these titles were not passed down to their children. Hence why Anne de Burgh was called the Right Honorable Miss De Burgh rather than Lady Anne. Lady Catherine was a daughter of a peer but her husband was Sir Louis De Burgh which means he was most likely knighted rather than a Baron. Knights could not pass their titles; barons could. The peerage flowed from the father not the mother.
Hope you found that interesting. If you have any questions leave a comment and I’ll answer in the form of a comment. I’m sure that there are others who have this same question.