Jane and the Stillroom Maid

by Stephanie Barron

Regency mystery, with fewer historical distractions

July 2001

Barron's fictional Jane continues her surprisingly dangerous career by stumbling upon a particularly grisly corpse -- a young man, she thinks, shot in the head and eviscerated. As it comes out that the deceased was a stillroom maid, in charge of remedies and preserves, and a vicious rumor implicating the Freemasons spreads throughout the village, Jane once again becomes enmeshed with a murder investigation. There are plenty of false leads to follow, plenty of scandals to uncover, and all in the company of Lord Harold Trowbridge, who is in Derbyshire to pay a visit of morning for the Duchess of Devonshire.

Of the Jane Austen Mystery series so far, this is the one most distilled - fewer side issues for Jane to consider, fewer forays into the politics and the culture of the day. There is, of course, the aristocratic name-dropping; we are treated to the leading people of the Whig movement in Parliament. Also, there is a small mention of Freemasonry, but it passes quickly. The chapters are interspersed with recipes for folk remedies, in sure opposition to the "more modern" apothecary and doctor, who prefer their bleeding cures to tinctures and poultices (Warning: do not try these remedies at home. Stick to our "modern" remedies of St. John's Wort and saw palmetto). However, there are far fewer footnotes in this book than the previous novels and far fewer reveries on Jane's part. Barron seems to have decided to make this a murder mystery, with few distracting elements. Once again, an enjoyable read, like the rest of the series, but no tedious bits as some of the previous novels suffered from.

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Mary Pat Campbell, last updated July 2001