Jane and the Stillroom Maid
Book 5- Jane Austen Mystery
While Jane Austen, her sister (Cassandra), and her mother are staying with their cousin, Edward Cooper (a vicar) in Derbyshire, a maid is found murdered. Jane is out for a walk when she finds the body of Tess Arnold, a servant to the Danforth family. The maid, though, is disguised as a man, which shocks the investigators. Tess is shot in the head and her body is split open with her organs spilling out on the ground. Needless to say, it’s a gruesome sight. At first, there is an attempt to cast blame on the Free Masons, but that fails. Jane, with the help of her old friend, Lord Harold Trowbridge (who is a type of secret agent for the Crown), investigates the prestigious Danforth family to find the murderer.
If anything, this mystery reveals the moral bankruptcy that can appear in aristocratic families. There seems to be more focus on the continuation of family wealth than actual relationships. The way marriages and children are disregarded for money is quite shocking. Additionally, the murdered servant had been practicing her own type of apothecary; some people referred to her as a witch. Due to this, Jane wonders at one point in the novel if Tess intentionally killed people through her supposed ailments.
This was a very intelligent, provocative mystery. I highly recommend it. I hope to see Lord Harold in future novels. He is a very interesting character.
Next Book in Series: Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House
Next Book to Review: The Cat of the Baskervilles (Book 3- Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery)