JANE AND THE WANDERING EYE
As Christmas of 1804 approaches, Jane Austen finds herself "insupportably bored with Bath, and the littlenesses of a town," despite the seasonal gaiety, the elegant Assemblies, and the appearance of a celebrated pair of actors at the Theatre Royal. It is with something like relief, then, that she accepts a peculiar commission from her Gentleman Rogue, Lord Harold Trowbridge to shadow his niece, Lady Desdemona, who has fled Bath to avoid the attentions of the arrogant and unsavoury Earl of Swithin.
But at a masquerade thronged with this fashionable and the notorious, Janes idle diversion suddenly turns deadly. Even as actor Hugh Conyngham transfixes the guests with his declamation of MacBeths murderous soliloquy, his theatre manager is discovered stabbed to death in an anteroom. Weeping on his breast is Hughs sister, the spirited tragedienne Maria Conyngham. And standing by the body, knife in hand, is Desdemonas brother, Simon, Lord Kinsfell. In vain does Simon protest his innocence: he is arrested and charged with murder.
Jane, however, knows that there is more to this fatal drama than meets the eye. And what is one to surmise from the stormy portrait of an eye left lying on the corpse? As Yuletide revels progress, Janes delicate inquiries expose a bewildering array of suspects amid an endlessly shifting pattern of flirtations, amours, and sinister entanglements. And as Janes fascination with mystery and her fondness for the dramatic arts lead her deeper into the investigation, it becomes clear that she will not uncover the truth without some playacting of her own.
Yet Janes bravura performance could do more than unmask a killer it could lead to the ruin of her reputation, or even the loss of her life.
Fiendishly clever and breathlessly diverting, Jane and the Wandering Eye weaves manners, mayhem, and murder into a dazzling spectacle of intrigue and suspense.
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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.