STEPHANIE BARRON – Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor. Jane Austen #1, Bantam, hardcover, 1996; paperback, 1996.

   Barron is a pseudonym for Francine Matthews, whose first book I disliked considerably and whose later ones I haven’t read.

   Jane Austen has just done reneging on a marriage proposal she had accepted only a day earlier, and is getting away from it all by visiting a young, beautiful friend at Scargrave Manor. The friend recently married  an older Earl, seemingly happily; but shortly after Jane arrives the Earl dies from a mysterious malady, and her friend and the Earl’s nephew are accused of murdering him. Jane can’t believe it, and begins to poke and pry into everyone’s affairs-and finds herself in danger as a result.

   I’ve been told that this is written in a style very similar to Jane Austen’s; I read Austen so long ago I have only the vaguest recollection, but I’m inclined to accept the assertions. At any rate, the narrative style was very different from what I’m used to, and it took me a while to get accustomed to it. Once I did, I found the book enjoyable in a mild, very non-spectacular sort of way.

   I liked this considerably more than Matthews’ first book under her own name, though I did think some aspects of the denouement came a little out of  left field. The characterizations were decent if a bit broad, and on the whole it was good enough of its kind — which really isn’t mine.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #25, May 1996.


      The Jane Austen Mysteries —

1. Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor (1996)
2. Jane and the Man of the Cloth (1997)
3. Jane and the Wandering Eye (1998)
4. Jane and the Genius of the Place (1999)
5. Jane and the Stillroom Maid (2000)
6. Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House (2001)
7. Jane and the Ghosts of Netley (2003)
8. Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy (2005)
9. Jane and the Barque of Frailty (2006)
10. Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron (2010)
11. Jane and the Canterbury Tale (2011)
12. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas (2014)
13. Jane and the Waterloo Map (2016)
14. Jane and the Year without a Summer (2022)