JANE AND THE STILLROOM MAID
Jane Austen is enjoying a summer visit to Derbyshires craggy peaks, sparkling streams, and cavernous gorges. But there, amid scenes of unsurpassed beauty, she stumbles upon the ugliest slaughter she has ever seen. High in the rocks near the town of Bakewell the body of a young gentleman. With blond curls and delicate features, the victim has the face of an angel yet Jane can see that he had been shot in the forehead and savagely mutilated.
But even more shocking is the revelation gleaned from the surgeons examination: the deceased is in fact a woman a maidservant clad in the garb of her master, Mr. Charles Danforth of Penfolds Hall. Tess Arnold had been in charge of the stillroom at Penfolds for many years and was known as an adept preserver of produce and compounder of home remedies until , it seems she was dismissed for a scandalous indiscretion.
Was Tess, Jane wonders, the gory prey of a madman loose in the hills? Is there any merit to the claims of the ranting blacksmith, who speculates that Tess fell victim to a ritual execution the dark side of the secret brotherhood of the Freemasons?
A fortuitous encounter with Lord Harold Trowbridge, Janes Gentleman Rogue affords her ample opportunity to study local gentry. She soon learns that the two Danforth brothers of Penfolds Hall could not be more dissimilar Andrew, jovial and ambitious; Charles, lame and taciturn, given to midnight rambles and haunted by the successive deaths of his wife and four children The common folk whisper that he is cursed or worse. Through it all, Janes genius for observation, interrogation and artifice places her routinely at risk and just out of sight lurks a killer from whom little can protect her.
Endlessly diverting, Jane and the Stillroom Maid is a classic mystery that takes readers on a guided tour of the English countryside at its most murderous and displays Jane Austen at the height of her stylish and trenchant powers of detection.
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Stephanie Barron also writes contemporary thrillers under the name Francine Mathews. Click here for more information.
All content copyright 2011, Stephanie Barron/Francine Mathews.