Jane and the Waterloo Map
#13 Jane Austen Mysteries
by Stephanie Barron
Publisher: Soho Crime
Sophia Rose’s Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Net Galley
Today’s Reveiwer, Sophia Rose, received this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
Today’s post marks the first from my friend Sophia Rose as a Guest Reviewer. I am so excited to have another person contributing a review! She has great insights into the books she reads and also reviews at THE DELIGHTED READER and manages The Literary Pickers Challenge.
Read more about Sophia Rose beneath the review!
ABOUT THE BOOK
November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises.
However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning.
Each installment of this series is fascinating and enchanting in its own way as it takes the reader through the life of Jane Austen as both a famous real life authoress, but also as a fictional detective. The historical is colorful and authentic and the mystery is clever and challenging. The reader is treated to real events, real characters, and real settings that are augmented in such a way as to blend fiction with fact seamlessly.
With this thirteenth book, we find Jane Austen spending November of 1815 in London nursing her brother Henry through a bad infection and awaiting the proofs for her latest book, Emma, not realizing that another adventure involving murder is soon to come her way.
A visit to Carlton House is tedious until she comes across a dying man whose last words lead Jane on the hunt to discover the secrets of the Waterloo Map. Death and danger stalk anyone who comes in contact with the map so it becomes imperative to discover the truth. Jane’s detecting partner from the previous Christmas, Mr. Rafael West, joins her in the hunt to find the murderer and solve the clue of the map. His presence is a little unsettling particularly when he gives her those fulsome glances that make her wish for what might be though she dare not trust there could truly be anything between them.
Jane herself becomes a target when her sleuthing makes the killer nervous and Henry, her brother, regardless of his own financial worries and illness is determined that she be kept safe even if he has to send her all the way back to Hampshire. Not that Jane plans on being sent anywhere. There is the cipher that must be solved, the French connection, and what really happened on that battlefield at Waterloo?
As a history buff, I enjoy a story that delivers not just a developed plot that keeps me riveted as it steadily works toward the conclusion, but also a story with a well-researched background. Each of these mysteries teaches me something new like in this case there are the medicinal use of the yew plant, water color as a painting technique, Regency era secret codes and ciphering, the economy of England after the Napoleonic war, and of course Jane Austen’s activities during the month of November in 1815.
And beyond the historical there is the life of Jane story thread. I enjoyed having Jane in London with her favorite brother, Henry, and joined by her twenty two year old niece, Fanny Knight, Edward Austen Knight’s daughter. The home life and activities described were interesting and one of my favorite parts of the book. Henry was the brother who encouraged her writing and allowed her to be herself. It was sad seeing him having the crisis with his banks because of the economic conditions, but he was so stoic about it. Fanny comes to London and it is like a breath of freedom for her after becoming the lady of the house after her mother’s death taking care of home and younger siblings while being passed over twice by suitors. I enjoyed her in the role of junior detective with her aunt and how Jane is there to confide in.
The relationship with Rafael West is fictional even though they are both real life figures. They have mutual respect and there is an attraction, but the author keeps it tenuous and more bittersweet as something that will probably never be though is longed for by the two lonely people. They are a good detecting team though they don’t share as much page time as they did in the last book.
As to the mystery plot, I enjoyed it and was as surprised as could be at the reveal, but for some reason it was a let down. I think that is a bit on me because I built up something in my head and it went a different direction that wasn’t nearly as satisfying. Truthfully, the hunt for clues was the interesting part and the solution didn’t do much for me. It felt rather pitiful and sad when all was said and done.
On a side note, I can’t help, but notice her age and how near it is coming to the end of her life as the book closes out the year 1815. Since this is fiction, couldn’t there be an alternate history for her?
All in all, this is a series I eagerly await each new installment. I love having Jane Austen as a fictional detective and enjoy the author’s blend of authentic historical with cunning mystery. I would recommend the series to historical mystery fans or fans of Jane Austen.
About Sophia Rose:
Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate. Writing has been a compelling need since childhood. Being published is a dream come true.