This blog reviews mystery character series that (usually) take place in historical London. Reviews do not contain spoilers or plot re-writes, though there may be a brief summary. Most reviewed books take place during the Regency and Victorian ages, in India during the British Raj or England between the wars. Commonly reviewed authors include: Charles Todd; Denise Mina; Tana French; Barbara Cleverly; Charles Finch and more. True crime and other mysteries lurk in the shadows as well, however.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Jane and Cantebury Tale by Stephanie Barron (A Jane Austen mystery)
I have to be careful when
reviewing installments in this series. I’d be lying if I said ever since a
major development involving a certain major character occurred, the books
simply haven’t been the same.
Don’t get me wrong –
Stephanie Barron’s command of the Austen’s syntax and narrative style, not to
mention her ability to plausibly tie every mystery into where Austen is at the
time, both in terms of her life and geographically, continues to be nothing
short of incredible.
That said, this installment
was oddly easy to figure out. Admittedly, this could be simply because I
primarily read quite a few historical fiction mysteries (hence this blog),
particularly character series. But I’ve always counted on Barron for her
ability to genuinely stump and surprise.
Barron’s plots, like Austen’s,
are generally subtle without being opaque. The puzzle in Jane Austen mysteries
is usually pieced together by weaving together the threads of different
characters, specifically a stutter here, an unexplained absence there, strange
behavior or a tiny inconsistency in aspect or dress.
To be sure, there is some
of that in this book. But one of the main events – the delivery of a sachet of
seeds to a bride on the eve of her second wedding – fizzles out a bit and was
rather disappointing. I suppose it could have been a peacock feather meant to
distract, but all the same, it was still something of a letdown.
Likewise, one of the
characters, a sketchy, world-traveled sailor, is marvelously compelling. Austen
and her brother’s visit to that character in gaol is Barron at her best. But
here, too, the final reveal was not very surprising and rather anticlimactic.
Again, I have to be careful
here. I may simply be getting over the series; I wasn’t a huge fan of the last
installment, either. I’ll admit that for about six months now my tastes have
leaned towards more contemporary mystery series. But normally I when I read a
Jane Austen mystery it is an elegant experience during which the reader is
given plenty of time and room to savor character development. Though the events
are rarely hurried, the undercurrent thread of suspense is always taut. This
installment, though not unenjoyable, simply didn’t seem as good as the others.