Jane Austen is in London in the fall of 1815 to supervise the publishing of her fourth novel, Emma. While there she stumbles upon a dying colonel in the house of the Prince Regent and discovers he has been poisoned. His dying message is “Waterloo Map,” a phrase relating to a map that she later finds secreted in the library. At first she is merely curious, but after she and a doctor are both attacked by anonymous ruffians intent on finding the document, she becomes more and more passionate about solving the mysteries of the murder and the map. She entangles her artist friend (and ardent admirer) Raphael West in the mystery and unwittingly endangers his life. He is kidnapped and held ransom for the exchange of the map and Jane must find the murderer before he does away with her sweetheart.
Although there are more than a dozen of them, this was the first Stephanie Barron Jane Austen mystery I’ve read, and I was pleasantly surprised. I was amazed by the amount of research that Barron put into her story (although after I read the flyleaf and discovered that she studied history at Princeton and Stanford I was a bit less surprised). She put tremendous effort into the accuracy of detail in her story. Barron included such diverse tidbits as details about the Battle of Waterloo, physical characteristics of minor (but real-life) characters, period-appropriate spelling of various words, descriptions of physical locations in London, and foods a lady would have eaten for tea (ratafia, anyone?). Barron drew me in over and over again with her detailed depiction of Regency life. She even managed to mimic much of Austen’s prose style throughout the book. My only disappointment was that the book seemed a bit lacking in Austen’s sharp wit and pithy observations of human nature, which is mainly why I read Austen. I enjoyed the book and was especially appreciative that, like Austen’s novels, it was completely clean.
Rated: None. No profanity, sex or violence.