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Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House by…

Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House

by Stephanie Barron

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I'll admit it. I groaned a little to myself when I read the book sleeve's description of Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House. Royal Navy? Yuck. Murder on the high seas? Blech. I was fully prepared to dislike the book on the whole and have to force myself to trudge through it's nearly 300 pages.

But . . . I was wrong. The book was fast-paced and so not over my head with naval details, terms and settings. Furthermore, for the first time in reading Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mystery series, I was only one person away from uncovering the true culprit! (Trust me, I'm usually WAY off the mark!)

This sixth entry in the series is set in Southampton and finds Jane, Mrs. Austen and Frank & Mary Austen (Jane's brother and sister-in-law) in temporary lodgings while their new home in Castle Square is being finished. The mystery involves a close friend of Frank's, Thomas Seagrave, who has been accused of murder at sea. Frank refuses to believe that his friend could have committed the crime and Jane eagerly volunteers to help him smoke out the true murderer. ( )
  Jenna.Czaplewski | Jul 3, 2014 |
I'd read the print version years ago, long enough that I'd forgotten who was the killer. Ms. Reading's narration was very suitable to the text. I hope my local library buys more audio editions of this enjoyable series. ( )
  JalenV | Oct 31, 2013 |
In the winter of 1807, we find Jane Austen in the seaport of Southampton living in hired lodgings while her brother Francis Austen’s new residence is made ready for them at Castle Square. The Austen women (Jane, sister Cassandra, their widowed mother and a dear family friend Martha Lloyd), will all be residing together under her brothers kind graces. He is at present a landlocked Royal Navy post captain anxiously awaiting his next assignment, and his first child.

News has reached Frank of a possible new ship, but the circumstances of its availability are a two edged sword. Its previous captain is a personal friend, Thomas Seagrave, who has been charged with violating the Articles of War by murdering an unarmed French captain during a siege. The prime witness to the assault is Seagrave’s first-lieutenant, Eustace Chessyre, an older officer who has been passed by many times for promotion. The case against Seagrave is “compelling in the extreme” and if he is court-martialed, he will hang. Frank would lose a fine friend, but gain in the assignment of his ship the frigate HMS Stella Marisand, and the possibility of fame and fortune.

Both Frank and Jane feel Seagrave is innocent and set out to discover the true killer. A prisoner from the seized ship held at the Wool House goal in Southampton may have the evidence to save his life. Jane’s skill at observation and deduction could save Seagrave from the gallows.

Barron supplies us with another enthralling case in the Jane Austen mystery series written from the famous authoresses perspective from her diaries that she has edited. It is all fiction mind you, but so convincing in its tone and historical detail that it reads like a true rediscovered journal in Austen’s own hand. In the previous novels Jane’s brothers Henry and Edward have assisted her ably in her detection of murder, but I must admit to being swayed with a “fine naval fervor.” Reveling in the time spent with her brother, post captain Francis “Fly” Austen and his Royal Navy world, I searched through my library for my C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian novels so I could continue the theme.

Even though the narrative got waylaid a few times in slow moving details, minor characters like self-absorbed Mrs. Seagrave and matter-of-fact Dr. Hill were interesting and finely drawn. Happily, wet blanket sister Cassandra was away in Kent staying at brother Edward’s estate Godmersham, so Mrs. Austen more than made up for any lack of Austen womanly opinions. She spends much of the story in her sickbed bordering on valetudinarian territory only breached by Austen’s own over-anxious parent Mr. Woodhouse from her novel Emma. I am awestruck by the prospect of five women cohabiting at Castle Square together in peace and harmony. Captain Austen must have been very relieved in April 1807 when he received his next ship, the HMS St. Albans, a third-rate ship of the line. He was back in the game, and out of the house!

Laurel Ann, Austenprose ( )
  Austenprose | Jun 10, 2011 |
I thought the Jane series had gotten tired, but I quite enjoyed this one. Perhaps I merely needed a vacation from them.Plot wandered - my patience for plot twists and red herrings in mysteries is not infinite - but characters and period details more than compensated. ( )
  krisiti | Jul 1, 2009 |
This series gets better and better! This book is set in Southampton in late February of 1807. There's a lot about the Roayl navy and navy life in general at this time in England's history. There is also a lot of murder, mayhem, skullduggery, spying, all fueled by greed. Jane and her brother Frank are trying to save the life of a sea captain who has been charged with war crimes at sea. He is accused of killing the captain of an enemy ship after the surrender flag had gone up. Frank knows that Captain Seagrave could not have done this deed, but as he and Jane try to determine who did, they run across a cruel and evil plot which places Captain Seagrave right in the middle of the scheme, and it's going to be difficult to prove his innocence. Jane and Frank also stumble on a French spy who spies for England. As the plot unfolds, it endangers the life of this French prisoner. This book is engrossing and it also full of surprises. It sure kept me interested anyway!! ( )
  Romonko | May 7, 2009 |
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Louisa . . . burst forth into raptures of admiration and delight
on the character of the navy-their friendliness, their brotherli-
ness, their openness, their uprightness; protesting that she was
convinced of sailors having more worth and warmth than any
other set of men in England; that they only knew how to live,
and the only deserved to be respected and loved.

-Jane Austen,Persuasion,
The Oxford Illustrated Edition, page 99
This book is dedicated with love to my uncle,
Charles Cornelius Sibre,
A Heart of Oak
Who has sailed many a voyage with Nelson's Navy
From the comfort of his armchair
First words
Had I suffered the misfortune to be born a man, I should have torn myself early from the affections of my family and all the comforts of home, and thrown my fate upon the mercy of the seas.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553578405, Mass Market Paperback)

The acute powers of observation that marked Jane Austen's brilliant authorial career serve her equally well as a sleuth, as Barron's popular series has demonstrated in five earlier outings. Here, Barron uses Austen's well- documented interest in the Royal Navy as the linchpin of the plot. Jane's brother Frank, an officer who served under Nelson at Trafalgar, can't believe that his friend Tom Seagrave, commanding officer of the Stella Maris, killed the captain of the French frigate Manon moments after he'd surrendered his ship to Seagrave, despite the testimony of a junior officer. Ministering to the French prisoners of war housed at the Wool House of the title, Jane soon discovers another witness to the incident, a dashing and romantic surgeon whose account might save Seagrave from the gallows. As usual, Barron evokes the social, domestic, and cultural scene of England in the glory days of the empire with the wit, charm, and verve that mark her heroine's literary legacy. --Jane Adams

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:35 -0400)

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Jane investigates the murder of a French captain, when a friend of her brother Frank's is arrested for the crime.

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