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Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave…

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor: Being the First Jane… (original 1996; edition 2008)

by Stephanie Barron

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890229,932 (3.66)40
Title:Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor: Being the First Jane Austen Mystery
Authors:Stephanie Barron
Info:Bantam (2008), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Read on Kindle, Your library
Tags:jane austen sequel, period mystery, mystery series, england regency

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Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron (1996)

  1. 10
    The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: Both are written with a similar conceit - Jane's diaries found and footnoted by the editor/author. "Unpleasantness" has Jane solving a murder mystery to clear her friend, while "Lost Memoirs" delves into the possible romance that inspired Austen's greatest works.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Nice historical mystery - I didn't love it but I would be willing to try more in the series. It seems like a series that has improved with each book. ( )
  alyson | Aug 29, 2013 |
Austen-philes with a love of mysteries will be delighted with Barron's historical mystery series featuring Jane Austen as an amateur detective. Jane is visiting her friend Isobel, now Countess of Scargrave, when tragedy strikes. The Earl of Scargrave is suddenly falls victim to a violent gastric illness. The unpleasantness is increased by a blackmail letter threatening to reveal Isobel's adultery and mariticide. Isobel begs for Jane's help to clear her name and restore her honor. As a devoted friend, Jane is only too willing to assist. The eleventh Jane Austen mystery, Jane and the Canterbury Tale, was released in August 2011.
  ktoonen | Mar 16, 2012 |
Jane (Austen, that is) is to stay with her friend Isobel, the new Countess of Scargrave, to celebrate Isobel's return from her honeymoon. Jane's stay at Scargrave Manor soon goes awry when the Earl dies suddenly. Worse trouble looms however, when a second death occurs and suspicion falls on Isobel and the old Earl's nephew and heir. Isobel begs Jane to discover the truth, and so Jane Austen turns detective.

I really liked this book. Barron does a good job of imitating Austen's writing style and writing to suit her period setting. Real elements from Austen's life make their way into the story, as do quotes and paraphrases from Pride And Prejudice (I don't know Austen's other works well enough to spot quotes from them if they were there), which I thought was quite fun.

The mystery is very well written and flows so well as a story that there are no 'info dumps'. It's refreshing that Jane, as the detective, is not infalliable and while some of the motives are a bit transparent Barron still manages to add a twist at the end. A number of the characterisations seem to draw from those in Pride And Prejudice but since I love those characters I didn't think this was a problem, especially since Barron did it well.

In the forward Barron explains that Austen apparently did write a detective manuscript (which was never intended for publication) and how the manuscript eventually ended up with her to be edited and published. Initially I was reading out of curiosity, but I quickly found myself really enjoying the book for its own sake.

I'd recommend this for anyone who likes a really good cosy mystery, and if you happen to be a fan of Jane Austen even better. ( )
1 vote SouthernKiwi | Nov 19, 2011 |
This should have been written and posted this past Sunday, but I was on a mini-vacation. So this week it takes the place of Wordless Wednesdays:

As mentioned previously, Barron is well-known for her series which now consists of eleven novels, all pitting the beloved author, Jane Austen, as a veritable Jessica Fletcher. This first novel seems especially suited to a "Murder She Wrote" comparison, as Jane has gone to visit a friend (the wife of an Earl) and is present at the said Earl’s death. The mystery of who and why is as complex as any good murder mystery, though I must confess I harbor a preference for the arrogant Columbo style of already knowing who did it, almost before it’s done.

This novel is centered on a young bride from Barbadoes (inexplicably a friend of Miss Jane Austen) who is being pressured by debts to give up her childhood home of Crosswinds by the villainous Lord Harold, one of the last men to see her good husband alive. No one, it seems, can escape the possibility of guilt. Even Jane was present in the Earl’s last illness, and it is she who discovers the novel’s second body, as well as a melee of clues. When it seems the Countess and the new Earl are to be tried for the murders, Jane and the rest of the Scargrave party travel to London, where Miss Austen gains the assistance of her relations – a thing that makes this historical fiction buff proud.

Written in journal form (the novels are purported as seemingly “lost” manuscripts by Jane, sent to a niece of some sort for her amusement, and “never meant for publication”) the reader is saved from the boring third-person opinions of Miss Austen provided by other characters, and is instead installed in Austen’s head, as if along for the ride in one of her true letters, or in her novels. Austen is, of course, less omniscient in these entries than she is in her "known" works, where she is naturally all-knowing, but her wit and discernment are wonderfully characterized by Barron.

There are footnotes here and there which explain historical curiosities, but also serve to point out “inspirations” in Austen’s “real life” for later illustrated episodes of her novels. It may not be a perfect way to explain of the missing periods of Austen’s life (we’ll likely never have that) but this is certainly an amusing way to do so. With ten more books in the series to go, my only hope is that Barron can keep up the pace of the first one, as well as her talented hand for colorful supporting characters.

Lauren Cartelli
www.theliterarygothamite.com ( )
  laurscartelli | Sep 26, 2011 |
Even after 15 years in print and 10 novels in the series, this first effort shines

Imagine being present when Jane Austen’s unknown personal journals are discovered in an outbuilding on an ancient Maryland estate, Dunready Manor. Your friends the Westmoreland’s are distantly related to the authoress, and after restoration they place the manuscripts in your care before they are donated to a major library. They recount years of Jane Austen’s life and personal experiences that we know little of, the lost years after 1801 when she, her sister Cassandra and her parents move from their lifelong home at Steventon rectory in Hampshire to Bath. Filling in gaps in life events, missing letters thought destroyed by her sister after her death, and mysteries that she encountered and solved in her lifetime, you are mesmerized. You are allowed to study, edit and transcribe the journals. What unfolds is an intimate and highly intelligent account, blending Jane’s personal life and criminal observations as an amateur detective.

In 1802, fleeing a broken engagement with Harris Bigg-Wither of Manydown Park, Jane seeks to forget her troubles in a ‘whirlwind of frivolity’ accepting an invitation to visit her newly married friend Isobel Payne, Countess of Scargrave. Isobel has recently returned from her wedding trip to the Continent with her husband Frederick, Earl of Scargrave, a gentleman of mature years. To celebrate their recent nuptials the Earl is throwing a bridal Ball in his wife’s honor at their estate in Hertfordshire. In attendance is the Earl’s nephew and heir Fitzroy, Viscount Payne, the only son of his younger brother. Jane observes, ‘As a single man in possession of a good fortune, he must be want of a wife.’ Decidedly handsome, but proud and aloof, she instead spends a good deal of the evening dancing with a young cavalry officer, Lieutenant Thomas Hearst, the second son of the Earl’s deceased sister. Jane learns from a young lady, Miss Fanny Delahoussaye, that Hearst has a bit of reputation having recently killed a man in a duel of honor. She also reveals that Hearst is also a rake, prompting Jane to proceed cautiously. ‘My wordless confession made him hesitate to utter a syllable; and thus laboured in profound stupidity, for fully half a dance’s span. But all things detestable, I most detest a silent partner – and thrusting aside my horror of pistols at dawn, I took refuge in a lady’s light banter. “I have profited from your absence, Lieutenant, to inquire of your character,”’ and so begins and tête à tête between the Lieutenant that must have inspired Jane in her later writing. ;-)

Even though this is a festive and joyful event, trouble is brewing. Jane is concerned for her friend when Isobel is alarmed by the uninvited arrival of Lord Harold Trowbridge who is pressing her to purchase Crosswinds, her father’s troubled estate in Barbados. She also overhears an argument involving George Hearst, Thomas’ elder brother, and the Earl over a woman. Within minutes after the heated discussion, the Earl toasts his bride to his guests, downs his drink and doubles over in acute pain. He would never recover. Isobel is a now widow. A cruel twist of fate for a young bride, however, bereavement is the least of her worries after she receives cryptic missives accusing her and the Earl’s heir, Viscount Payne, of adultery and murder. Terrified of scandal Isobel entreats her dear friend Jane for help. Top on Jane’s list of suspects are the many guests in attendance at the Ball, a collection of characters that all seem to benefit from the Earl’s death. Like any good detective, Jane follows the clues which lead to Isobel’s former maid, Marguerite. Soon, she too is dead, her neck cut in one of the outbuildings on the Scargrave estate. With a second death, most definitely a murder, the authorities are also involved and Isobel is facing murder charges. The investigation will call upon all of Jane’s perceptive acumen leading her to the House of Lords and Newgate Prison, a place fit for no clergyman’s daughter, unless it is in pursuit of the real murderer to free her dear friend.

It has been fifteen years since I first was introduced to Jane Austen detective when this novel took me quite unawares in 1996. The notion of “my” Jane as a sleuth is still surprising, even after reading ten novels in the series, but it only takes a page or two before I am smiling and in total awe of Barron’s skill at channeling my favorite author. And channel she does. I know of no other that can rival her skill at early nineteenth-century language and humor. Blending events from Jane Austen’s actual life with fictional narrative, this detective story is in itself a mystery as I hunt for clues to known facts from Jane’s life and allusions to her future characters in her novels. Anyone with a passing knowledge of Austen’s famous romantic icon Mr. Darcy will recognize Barron’s gentle nod to him in Viscount Fitzroy Payne. Possessed of aloof pride and haughty silence, ‘Everyone wants to know him, but few truly like him.’ Barron has Jane play her future heroine Elizabeth Bennet by taunting her Darcy-like character. “I detect a similarity in the turn of our minds, Viscount Payne,” I persisted, in some exasperation. “We are both of a taciturn, ungenerous nature and would rather be silent until we may say what is certain to astonish all the world.” There are several passages of dialogue that will send a spark of recognition with other characters too, but the story is entirely Barron’s own darling child. This is after all, an homage, a pastiche to Austen, her life and her works. In total respect and with perfect pitch, Barron blends our Jane with a cleverly crafted mystery, infused with historical detail and cutting wit. Jane Austen may have only written six major novels in her short life, but Barron can certainly be credited as the next best thing to perfection.

Laurel Ann, Austenprose ( )
  Austenprose | Jan 14, 2011 |
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Jane's Introduction: When a young lady of more fashion than means has the good sense to win the affection of an older gentleman, a widower of high estate and easy circumstances, it is generally observed that the match is an intelligent one on both sides.
Chapter One: "What do you make of it, Jane?" the Countess of Scargrave asked.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553575937, Mass Market Paperback)

In a time of near Jane Austen-mania, what better heroine to solve a mystery than Jane herself? Only two things are required: a satisfying, well-structured whodunit plot and a knack for rendering Austen's style at picking up the most delicate nuances in social behavior. Stephanie Barron succeeds on both counts. When the squire of a country manor in Hertfordshire is found lifeless in his bed, foul play is suspected and Jane is called upon to unravel the mystery. Along the way, Barron employs Jane as the first-person narrator and adeptly re-creates Austen's voice and delightfully subtle humor.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:34 -0400)

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A mystery novel that casts Jane Austen as a sleuth who is called upon to investigate the suspicious death of the Earl of Scargrave, but the matter becomes urgent when the widow is accused of orchestrating her husband's death because of her love for his nephew.… (more)

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