In her sixth engrossing outing, Jane Austen employs her delicious wit and family ties to the Royal Navy in a case of murder on the high seas. Somewhere in the picturesque British port of Southampton, among a crew of colorful, eccentric, and fiercely individual souls, a killer has come ashore. And only Jane can fathom the depths of his ruthless mind....
Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House
“I will assert that sailors are endowed with greater worth than any set of men in England.”
So muses Jane Austen as she stands in the buffeting wind of Southampton’s quay beside her brother Frank on a raw February morning. Frank, a post captain in the Royal Navy, is without a ship to command, and his best prospect is the Stella Maris, a fast frigate captained by his old friend Tom Seagrave.
“Lucky” Tom — so dubbed for his habit of besting enemy ships — is presently in disgrace, charged with violating the Articles of War. Tom’s first lieutenant, Eustace Chessyre, has accused Seagrave of murder in the death of a French captain after the surrender of his ship.
Though Lucky Tom denies the charge, his dagger was found in the dead man’s chest. Now Seagrave faces court-martial and execution for a crime he swears he did not commit.
Frank, deeply grieved, is certain his friend will hang. But Jane reasons that either Seagrave or Chessyre is lying — and that she and Frank have a duty to discover the truth.
The search for the captain’s honor carries them into the troubled heart of Seagrave’s family, through some of the seaport’s worst sinkholes, and at long last to Wool House, the barred brick structure that serves as gaol for French prisoners of war.
Risking contagion or worse, Jane agrees to nurse the murdered French captain’s imprisoned crew — and elicits a debonair surgeon’s account of the Stella Maris’s battle that appears to clear Tom Seagrave of all guilt.
When Eustace Chessyre is found murdered, the entire affair takes on the appearance of an insidious plot against Seagrave, who is charged with the crime. Could any of his naval colleagues wish him dead? In an era of turbulent intrigue and contested amour, could it be a case of cherchez la femme ... or a veiled political foe at work? And what of the sealed orders under which Seagrave embarked that fateful night in the Stella Maris? Death knocks again at Jane’s own door before the final knots in the killer’s net are completely untangled.
Always surprising, Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House is an intelligent and intriguing mystery that introduces Jane and her readers to “the naval set” — and charts a true course through the amateur sleuth’s most troubled waters yet.
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The acute powers of observation that marked Jane Austen's brilliant authorial career serve her equally well as a sleuth, as Barron's popular series has demonstrated in five earlier outings. Here, Barron uses Austen's well- documented interest in the Royal Navy as the linchpin of the plot. Jane's brother Frank, an officer who served under Nelson at Trafalgar, can't believe that his friend Tom Seagrave, commanding officer of the Stella Maris, killed the captain of the French frigate Manon moments after he'd surrendered his ship to Seagrave, despite the testimony of a junior officer. Ministering to the French prisoners of war housed at the Wool House of the title, Jane soon discovers another witness to the incident, a dashing and romantic surgeon whose account might save Seagrave from the gallows. As usual, Barron evokes the social, domestic, and cultural scene of England in the glory days of the empire with the wit, charm, and verve that mark her heroine's literary legacy. --Jane AdamsFrom the Back Cover:
“Jane ventures ever further from the world conventionally assigned her real-life original.”
— Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Stephanie Barron’s superbly engaging Jane Austen mysteries:
“Historical fiction at its best!”
— Library Journal
“Barron does a wonderful job of evoking the great British estates and the woes of spinsters living in that era ... often echoing the rhythms of the Austen novels with uncanny ease.”
— Entertainment Weekly
“Ms. Barron’s skillful rendering of Ms. Austen’s style, attuned to picking up the most delicate fluctuations in social behavior, reveals it to be an ideal vehicle for the classic cozy murder mystery. Who knew?”
— The New York Times Book Review
“A real charmer.”
— San Francisco Chronicle
“There’s plenty to enjoy in the crime-solving side of Jane.... She is as worthy a detective as Columbo.”
— USA Today
“People who lament Jane Austen’s minimal lifetime output ... now have cause to rejoice.”
— The Drood Review of Mystery
— Star Tribune, Minneapolis
“Happily succeeds on all levels: a robust tale of manners and mayhem that faithfully reproduces the Austen style — and engrosses to the finish.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“A lighthearted mystery ... The most fun is that ‘Jane Austen’ is in the middle of it, witty and logical, a foil to some of the ladies who primp, faint and swoon.”
— The Denver Post
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