Thursday, February 4, 2016
JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP by Stephanie Barron
As one who loves a good mystery with a bit of he/she attraction thrown in what a joy it was to discover these delightful, erudite, meticulously researched Being A Jane Austen Mysteries. Granted, I’m long overdue as this is the 13th in the series by the redoubtable Stephanie Barron, but I’ll do my best to catch up and then eagerly await the next. I savored every page thoroughly enjoyed the period vocabulary and the refreshing description of a heroine whose cheeks blush when her hand is touched by a man’s fingers. Long may Stephanie Barron offer such pleasure!
With this tale Jane has returned to check the drafts of her latest book, Emma, and tend to her brother, Henry, who has not only ill but on the verge of bankruptcy. It is November of 1815 and when word reaches his Highness the Prince Regent that she is in the vicinity he invites her to work in the library at Carlton House, the Prince’s London mansion (and dedicate her latest book to him.) Well, it’s very difficult to say no to a Prince but when Jane reaches the library she finds a decorated hero of Waterloo, Col. Ewan McFarland, on the library floor. He is obviously dreadfully ill, and near death. Jane is the only one to hear his last words, “Waterloo map..” Trying to ease the dying man she has wiped his lips with her handkerchief. Later when she looks at her handkerchief she finds evergreen needles. The court’s physician as well as her brother’s, Dr. Matthew Baille, believes the needles may be from a poisonous yew.
When Jane returns again to the library and searches the area where Col. McFarland lay she finds a book holding a watercolor map that McFarland must have placed there just before he died. Jane believes there is no doubt that the man was poisoned. In short order Jane is attacked and Dr. Baille is viciously stabbed - someone obviously wants the map badly enough to commit murder. But, what can Jane do?
She turns to the son of the famed artist Benjamin West, Raphael, a painter who is also a government spy. And may I add tall, gallant and very handsome? Little do the two of them know who they are up against or why they both must now fear for their lives.
Building on a true meeting Barron has fashioned an incredible mystery that will keep readers turning pages while at the same time wishing this imaginative story would never end.