Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
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*        = Good, with reservations


***Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House

Being the Sixth Jane Austen Mystery

by Stephanie Barron

Reviewed January 31, 2002.
Bantam Books, 2001.  291 pages.  Available at Sembach Library (F BAR).

The premise of Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mysteries is a lot of fun.  She presents an account from fictional diaries she’s discovered, written by Jane Austen (the author of Pride and Prejudice).  She’s fit the events into a time in Jane Austen’s life and presents them in the voice of Jane Austen.  The result is not the same as a Jane Austen book--Those are romances, these are mysteries--but they have some of the same flavor as the originals.

This is the third Jane Austen mystery I’ve read, and I enjoyed it more than any of the others.  One flaw in the books is that the solutions seem unduly convoluted.  This one seemed easier to follow than the others I’ve read, and I enjoyed it very much.

Stephanie Barron’s research must have been prodigious. She uses nineteenth century expressions (with occasional footnotes) and includes characters whom Jane Austen would have known.  She sets this one in Portsmouth, where Jane is staying with her brother Frank as he waits for a ship to command. This brother was in the British Navy and ended up as Admiral of the Fleet.  Jane Austen includes naval officers in many of her books, and this one showed her familiarity with the naval life.

Of course, it’s simple to tell who would like this book.  If you’re a Jane Austen fan, you simply have to give these books a try.  In fact, this would be a good one to start with, as they don’t refer to the earlier books much.  It’s possible that mystery fans who haven’t read Jane Austen’s books would also like these, but the main charm is the flavor they conjure up of the nineteenth century world of Jane Austen.

Review of other Jane Austen mysteries:
Jane and the Man of the Cloth
Jane and the Wandering Eye
Jane and the Ghosts of Netley


Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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