Jane and the Stillroom Maid:
Being the Fifth Jane Austen Mystery
by Stephanie Barron

Hardcover - 304 pages (August 2000)
Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub (Trd); ISBN: 0553107348
Mass Market Paperback 
384 pages (May  1, 2001) 
Bantam Books; ISBN: 0553578375 

        Written by Joyce Buckley (2/18/2001 8:23 p.m.)
I just recently finished reading the latest in Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mysteries - Jane and the Stillroom Maid.

Well like so many a  reader here, I very much enjoyed the first mystery and also the next three to varying degrees. However, I cannot say the same for this one at all. Perhaps I am just becoming tired of Miss Austen as a mystery solver, it is almost as if her presence in the neighbourhood is enough to induce a murder. Alas all too soon every parish in England will soon be barring the toll roads to Miss Austen if this goes on long enough. I shall try not to reveal too much to those of you  who wish to read the book.

Still I could not like the story. There was a slightly sickly tone to it that dragged it down woefully. I was in the end simply enduring it, instead of wanting to hurry through it out of impatient enjoyment of the mystery. There was too much suddenly being revealed at various points (especially the ends of chapters) to enhance the mystery. Rather the revelations seemed to simply
     serve the purpose of trying to induce tension - they did not, they merely exasperated me. There was a good deal too much about the family of the  Duke of Devonshire in the story and so involved in the murder. Including real historical persons is an acceptable plot device, but to so discuss motives and indeed offer suppositions about the family (e.g. why the young Duke did not  marry) is just extraneous. Then of course there is Lord Harold once again to  the fore and very much under Miss Austen's gaze. Well it was becoming obvious from the second book that a romantic interest in between the two  would prove irresistible. I wish it was resistible. It almost seems slightly  insulting to Austen that a love interest must be invented for her.

I think the idea of Jane Austen as an intrepid detective is just wearing too thin.