For Frances Black, a member of the Robert Barnaby Society—dedicated to the work of a (fictional) author—doing research on a missing member is a welcome distraction that serves the double purpose of an opportunity to spend time with a potential suitor.It's 1929 in Lancashire. Fran is in the cross hairs when Linda Dexter, the speaker she had suggested for the society’s annual conference, doesn’t show. Although society chairman Hugh Allonby is distressed at Linda’s absence, there’s a silver lining, at least for him: he’s delighted at the opportunity to expatiate on how flighty and undependable women are. What business do they have giving speeches, anyway? While Fran doesn’t really know Linda, she’s surprised by her absence and wonders if Linda’s topic was too controversial for the conservative crowd of Barnaby fans. Titled "The Magic Chair: Fact or Fiction," Linda’s talk was designed to draw attention to the possibility that the supposed Magic Chair that inspired Barnaby’s books was apocryphal. After Linda’s body is found, Hugh presses society members to avert their eyes from what he deems a suicide, but the more closely Fran and fellow member Tom Dod look into Linda’s life and legacy, the more certain they are that she’s been murdered. Fran tries to balance her interest in this intrigue with her personal interest in Tom, which she and Mrs. Mo Gallimore, her friend and neighbor, conspire to promote.
Janes (Stick or Twist, 2016, etc.) marries manners and characters with irresistible charm in spite of a plot that’s both implausible and predictable.