cover image Jane and the Year Without a Summer: Being a Jane Austen Mystery

Jane and the Year Without a Summer: Being a Jane Austen Mystery

Stephanie Barron. Soho Crime, $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-64129-247-4

At the start of Barron’s outstanding 14th Jane Austen mystery (after 2016’s Jane and the Waterloo Map), Jane uses some of the profits from her novel Emma to treat herself and her sister, Cassandra, to two weeks at Cheltenham Spa in Gloucestershire in May 1816. Jane hopes that taking the waters there will alleviate her lassitude, back pain, and “want of spirits.” The new acquaintances the sisters meet include a beautiful invalid in her 20s, a heroic naval captain, and an evangelical clergyman (“Repent, Miss Austen—Prepare. The end of all things is upon us”), who’s accompanied by his impertinent sister (“You do not appear to suffer. You cannot claim ill health,” she tells Jane). When one of these sharply defined characters dies of poisoning, Jane once again turns sleuth. The Austen family’s financial constraints and Jane’s own failing health add verisimilitude to this taut, sometimes perplexing tale of lost opportunity and unfulfilled aspirations. Barron fans will hope Jane, who died in 1817, will be back for one more mystery. Agent: Rafe Sagalyn, ICM Partners/Sagalyn. (Feb.)