Hampshire, July 1809. An eighth adventure awaits Jane Austen at Chawton Cottage.
Getting settled in new accommodations is never easy, but the sleuthing novelist must face more difficulties than most. The villagers are hostile because Jane’s brother Edward, the absentee squire, has removed the Widow Seward from the premises preparatory to installing Jane and her mother. A lawyer has arrived with a bequest for Jane from the late Lord Harold Trowbridge (Jane and the Ghosts of Netley, 2003, etc.). The rogue has flummoxed several hopeful legatees by leaving her a chest full of letters and musings. The chest is stolen, but even worse, there’s a corpse in the cottage cellar, setting in motion two problems for Jane, who must circumspectly quiz both the area’s high- and low-born: a laborer caught climbing out of her cottage window; Lady Imogene and Julian Thrace, rivals claiming to be the Earl of Holbrook’s heirs entitled to his holdings; dandy Jack Hinton, who winds up in gaol when Catherine Prowting avers she saw him kill poor Shafto French; and limping Major Spence, who loved Lady Imogene but loved her grand home perhaps even more.
Exquisitely leisurely, with time for whist, tea, strolls across the lawn, church homilies, digressions on those “too high in the instep,” and plenty for Jane’s banker brother and treasure-hunting mother to do, leaving her to savor her lover’s papers.