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Jane and the Stillroom Maid: Being the Fifth Jane Austen Mystery [Hardcover]

Stephanie Barron
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Aug. 1 2000 Jane Austen Mystery
Jane Austen as sleuth continues to delight in her latest adventure (after Jane and the Genius of the Place), which sheds new light on the author's travels in 1806. While enjoying a ramble in the Derbyshire hills near Bakewell (a town Eliza Bennett visits in Pride and Prejudice), Jane discovers the mutilated body of a young man. Jane's suspicions are roused when her escort, Mr. George Hemming, prefers to remove the unidentified corpse to Buxton, rather than Bakewell, and they increase when the body proves to be that of a woman dressed in men's clothing. Moreover, the corpse is identified as Tess Arnold, a servant at one of the area's great houses, whom Mr. Hemming should have recognized. As the compounder of stillroom remedies, Tess had a reputation as a healer, until accused of witchcraft. Rumors of ritual murder by Freemasons-who include most of the neighboring gentry-excite the local populace and jeopardize the investigation of the justice of the peace, himself a Mason. When Mr. Hemming disappears before the inquest, Jane and the justice turn for help to Lord Harold Trowbridge, a guest at the nearby ducal house of Chatsworth. Barron catches Austen's tone amazingly well. Details of early 19th-century country life of all classes ring true, while the story line is clear, yet full of surprises. The "editor's notes" that punctuate the text and old cures for various ills that open each chapter add to the charm. (Aug.)

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From Publishers Weekly

Jane Austen as sleuth continues to delight in her latest adventure (after Jane and the Genius of the Place), which sheds new light on the author's travels in 1806. While enjoying a ramble in the Derbyshire hills near Bakewell (a town Eliza Bennett visits in Pride and Prejudice), Jane discovers the mutilated body of a young man. Jane's suspicions are roused when her escort, Mr. George Hemming, prefers to remove the unidentified corpse to Buxton, rather than Bakewell, and they increase when the body proves to be that of a woman dressed in men's clothing. Moreover, the corpse is identified as Tess Arnold, a servant at one of the area's great houses, whom Mr. Hemming should have recognized. As the compounder of stillroom remedies, Tess had a reputation as a healer, until accused of witchcraft. Rumors of ritual murder by FreemasonsAwho include most of the neighboring gentryAexcite the local populace and jeopardize the investigation of the justice of the peace, himself a Mason. When Mr. Hemming disappears before the inquest, Jane and the justice turn for help to Lord Harold Trowbridge, a guest at the nearby ducal house of Chatsworth. Barron catches Austen's tone amazingly well. Details of early 19th-century country life of all classes ring true, while the story line is clear, yet full of surprises. The "editor's notes" that punctuate the text and old cures for various ills that open each chapter add to the charm. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-In this fifth Jane Austen mystery, Jane's cousin, Mr. Edward Cooper, rector of Hamstall Ridware, Staffordshire, takes her, her mother, and sister to the town of Bakewell in Derbyshire. He is an avid fisher-man and Jane is an avid walker. The bucolic English countryside and bubbling streams seem to be a perfect fit for them-until Jane finds a body in the hills. The victim has been shot in the head and mutilated and, although dressed as a man, is actually a beautiful still-room maid, Tess Arnold. The story is com-plex and another death follows. Lord Harold Trowbridge is staying in the area and per-suades Jane to accompany him to various so-cial functions and use her investigative skills and interest in the case. The protagonist is at her analytical best, and her fans will love this story. Twists and turns abound and the killer is so evil that readers will never suspect who and why it is until the very end. Austen makes a fine sleuth even if she is quite smitten with the debonair Lord Trowbridge.-Linda A. Vretos, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, VA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Mystery Story May 6 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I ordered this book for my sister who loves Jane Austin and all things mystery. She really loves these books and can hardly wait for the next ones!!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Predictable July 8 2004
By m-lee
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Altogether too predictable, making it a huge yawn. An excellent idea going to waste under this author.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Darker Tone Than the Earlier Books Sept. 2 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I continue to be very impressed with this series of mysteries. This one took me a little bit more time to get into, perhaps more because of busyness in my own life than actually having trouble getting into the story, but, as in the past with these books, I ended up being very satisfied. There is a slightly larger cast of supporting characters here than in the past books, and this one is a little less overtly political (not so much worry about Napoleonic France here) but there are certainly class and social issues. Jane is more socially anxious than in the earlier books, as she heads off to the opulant home of her Whig friends. Some of this is a class and political consciousness, and some of this comes from the growing sense that she is older, without money, and without some of the prospects for happiness that she has to admit she yearns for. This is stronger here than in any of th earlier books. Jane's relationship with Sir Harold Trowbridge brings her both great joy and terrible pain, as she confronts the abyss between their social positions and knows that she can never home to cross the divide between them, no matter how beautifully their minds work together and they appreciate each other.
The actual plot here is as clear and direct as the plot of the ealier books as well--solving the mystery is not the ultimate satisfaction here. It is coming to that solution with the very satisfying characters.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Jane Austen lives! July 25 2001
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have enjoyed all of the Jane Austen and...mystery books. The novels are witty, exciting, and true to Jane Austen. There is sly humor and a depth of character (main characters) that is truly engaging. This book sent me back to Pride and Prejudice with a new perspective, and was a terrific mystery in its own right.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
Barron's fictional Jane continues her surprisingly dangerous career by stumbling upon a particularly grisly corpse -- a young man, she thinks, shot in the head and eviscerated. As it comes out that the deceased was a stillroom maid, in charge of remedies and preserves, and a vicious rumor implicating the Freemasons spreads throughout the village, Jane once again becomes enmeshed with a murder investigation. There are plenty of false leads to follow, plenty of scandals to uncover, and all in the company of Lord Harold Trowbridge, who is in Derbyshire to pay a visit of morning for the Duchess of Devonshire.
Of the Jane Austen Mystery series so far, this is the one most distilled - fewer side issues for Jane to consider, fewer forays into the politics and the culture of the day. There is, of course, the aristocratic name-dropping; we are treated to the leading people of the Whig movement in Parliament. Also, there is a small mention of Freemasonry, but it passes quickly. The chapters are interspersed with recipes for folk remedies, in sure opposition to the "more modern" apothecary and doctor, who prefer their bleeding cures to tinctures and poultices (Warning: do not try these remedies at home. Stick to our "modern" remedies of St. John's Wort and saw palmetto). However, there are far fewer footnotes in this book than the previous novels and far fewer reveries on Jane's part. Barron seems to have decided to make this a murder mystery, with few distracting elements. Once again, an enjoyable read, like the rest of the series, but no tedious bits as some of the previous novels suffered from.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful concoction -- Feb. 17 2001
Format:Hardcover
In the great houses of England, many of which were somewhat isolated and therefore at least somewhat self-contained, the Stillroom maid was a sort of combination lay-apothecary and general medical practitioner. According to the medical rules of the time, that is. Her strength was in the knowledge and use of herbs and other assorted items that could be blended together to cure--or at least treat--nearly every ailment known to man. If the medicaments as put forth at the beginning of each chapter of this book are as factual as stated by the author, I confess to surprise that not more of the Stillroom maids were cruelly murdered. Many of them were accused--rightly or wrongly--of witchcraft.
Of course, Tess Arnold was a bit more than just Stillroom maid to the household in which she was employed. Just how much more, became the problem facing Jane Austen in this, her fifth crime to solve. Jane, after all, had come across the mutilated body of the young person, dressed in gentleman's evening clothes, and with a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead. Imagine the surprise of everyone--including Jane--when the local coroner identified the corpse as not a young man, but--the Stillroom maid from Penfolds Hall.
Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother, in the company of Edwin Cooper, the nephew of Mrs. Austen, and a vicar (who was clearly the model for Mr. Collins) visit Derbyshire in company with George Hemming, a gentleman friend of Edwin. The two gentlemen and Jane had gone trout fishing in the dales, providing the opportunity for Jane to have a little commune with nature, but resulting instead in the horrid discovery of the body.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this series!
Being a dedicated Janeite, I avoided this series for a long time because I figured these books would be stupid. Boy, was I wrong. Read more
Published on Nov. 30 2000 by Margaret Sullivan
4.0 out of 5 stars An accomplished tribute to Austen if somewhat predictable
This is the first novel in the series that I have read and I must admit that I was not disappointed. Read more
Published on Nov. 6 2000 by shannu
3.0 out of 5 stars An unsatisfying ending mars an otherwise interesting mystery
This entry in the Jane Austen series--purportedly a series of Austen's personal journals only recently discovered--has many of the delights that characterize the entire series. Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2000 by Sharon Wylie
5.0 out of 5 stars Jane And The Stillroom Maid
This is the darkest and best of Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mysteries. I think Ms Barron has finally pinned down Jane Austen's voice. Read more
Published on Sept. 28 2000 by tregatt
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Regency Feel
Stephanie Barron has put it together. Jane Austen makes an intriguing character and, in this mystery, she gets to stretch herself to the limit. Read more
Published on Sept. 19 2000 by booksforabuck
5.0 out of 5 stars A great regency mystery
In 1806, Bath, England is a very expensive place to live. When Jane Austen's father died, she, her mother and her sister moved into the South Hampton home of Captain Frank Arden... Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2000 by Harriet Klausner
5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent and satisfying adventure with Jane
I eagerly anticipated this latest volume from Stephanie Barron and I was not disappointed. Barron has created a very believable Jane - and in this case her mother and sister as... Read more
Published on Aug. 2 2000 by Margaret H.
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