November 8, 2023

Jane and the Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron

This was a difficult read for me because it is the last in the series and because Jane Austen was at the end of her life in this one. I have read all 15 of these books. The first one came out in 1996. Barron is the first author since Georgette Heyer who really could mimic Austen's wry humor and subtle sarcasm. I guess I'll have to go back and read them all again.

In this volume, we find Jane heading to Winchester to help her friend Elizabeth whose son has been accused of murdering a fellow student at the prep school there. Jane's nephew Edward had been a student there recently and was also along to help. Barron used actual events and people in Austen's life to inform her mysteries, including at least one letter Austen wrote while she was in Winchester. Elizabeth was the sister of the man Jane Austen accepted a proposal of marriage from in 1815 and then changed her mind the next morning.

By about halfway through the book, I had figured out who the murderer was, but not why. I enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot and the setting of Winchester. Jane's death does not take place on the page. The epilogue is a wrapping up of all the characters in the book and what actually happened to all of them.

This was overall a fun mystery. My own personal sadness that this is the last one kept me from flying through it, but a less rabid Jane Austen fan would not have this struggle.