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JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP
by Stephanie Barron
Soho, February 2016
320 pages
$25.95
ISBN: 1616954256


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jane Austen is in London, trying to read and edit the proofs of EMMA, a task rendered quite difficult by the procrastination(s) of her publisher. She is being pressured by the Reverend James Clarke, a big fan of hers, to dedicate the work to HRH, a man Jane holds in contempt. While being taken on a tour of Carlton House, the Regent's home in London by Rev. Clarke, James stumbles across a dying man in the library. His last words are, "Waterloo . . . .Map"; this is curious, as why would a man waste his last words on a battle that is over and done?

Jane discovers the man was poisoned: there are yew leaves in the handkerchief she uses to wipe his mouth. Who poisoned him, and why? As she begins to make inquiries, she learns that not everyone associated with this soldier is nice. One of his former associates is planning to marry his sister, an alliance not approved of by the dead man. This associate has also turned out the dead man's servant, without a recommendation, for what seems to be no reason at all. And there are others who may or may not have a grudge.

Jane, if nothing else, places a high value on her family and on taking care of them. She comes to London to help care for her brother, Henry; she has cause to believe he is dying. During her visit (and investigation), she renews her acquaintanceship with Raphael West. This is a pleasant part of her visit to London, as is her chaperoning of her niece Fannie. Both become involved in her quest for the killer.

WATERLOO MAP is the 13th entry in the series. While it is perfectly capable of standing on its own, one suspects that jumping in at this stage of the game leaves something to be desired. The motivation for Jane's investigation seems to lack something; perhaps earlier books hold the secret to her enquiring mind. Other than that, WATERLOO is a pleasant excursion into England of the early 1800's. Jane Austen has a quiet self-awareness of both her own qualities and those expected of her; she also has the skills to manipulate them as required by both society and circumstance. This is a well-told story by an accomplished author.

I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I have been a preliminary judge for the Malice Domestic/St. Martin's Press Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest for at least 25 years. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs. My Sherlockian (BSI) nom-de-plume is VR; my license plate is BSI VR

Reviewed by PJ Coldren, March 2016

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