Jane and the Waterloo Map
Being a Jane Austen Mystery #13
Soho Crime, February 2016
The story begins with Miss Jane Austen, a spinster of almost forty years, paying a command visit to Carlton House where the Prince Regent is in residence. Oh, not to actually see the prince, but to meet with the prince’s representative on how to address the supreme honor of having been invited (commanded) to dedicate her next book, the soon-to-be-published “Emma,” to the prince.
Stuck out of the public eye in a library where nobody ever goes, Jane discovers a dying man, whose last words are “Waterloo map.” As she mops the man’s face, residue from his vomit is caught in her handkerchief, which forms a vital clue that his death was not natural or even a suicide, but murder.
Jane, not being one to let things take their course, soon has plenty of suspects, one leading to another. The attending doctor? The dead man’s former friend? Any one of several potential French spies? Because the map, as she soon discovers with the aid of artist Rafael West, contains a cipher. What does it mean. Does it refer to Napoleon’s lost treasure? So there are two puzzles for her and Rafe, along with Jane’s brother Henry and her niece, Fanny, to figure out. Unfortunately, it turns into a dangerous adventure for her and for Rafe, who is almost murdered too.
Stephanie Barron plots this novel so artfully and so cleverly that I didn’t see the true culprit coming. Engaging characters fill the pages. The reader will identify with Jane as an aging woman, writers are bound to sympathize with her problems as an author. I enjoyed learning about a Belper stove. I’ll definitely want to continue reading this series.
Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.