Welcome to my stop on the Jane Austen Investigates Blog Tour! I am utterly excited to be in the company of all the fantastic bloggers in conversation to celebrate the publication of this wonderful book: Jane Austen Investigates: The Abbey Mystery. As the title implies, it’s the first of a new series by the outstanding Julia Golding…and what a way to begin!
When I first picked up a copy of The Diamond of Drury Lane way back in 2006, I immediately became a fan of Julia Golding. She knows how to tell a story; how to create characters and build a mystery around them that immerses her readers in the world she has created. So when I heard that she about to take us into to the world of Jane Austen (of whom I have also always been a firm fan), I jumped at the chance to get a copy of her latest effort. To create a mystery series with young Jane as its protagonist and private investigator… it’s simply genius! Young Jane Austen rivals all of the very best detectives; so clever, so intriguing and such a richly textured late-18th century world.
JANE AUSTEN INVESTIGATES: THE ABBEY MYSTERY
Author: Julia Golding
Lion Hudson Ltd. (23 April 2021)
In 1789, it is certainly true that life as the daughter of a clergyman in rural Hampshire is “disappointingly full of duties.” Making their way home from a visit with one of their fathers’ more tedious parishioners, Cassandra and Jane Austen are looking forward to a summer lacking in excitement and adventure. But all of that changes quickly. A carriage accident forces a change of plans. Thirteen-year-old Jane is sent to act as companion to Lady Cromwell at Southmoor Abbey in place of her older sister, while Lord and Lady Cromwell prepare the eldest sons’ coming-of-age party. Goaded on by her older brother, Henry, Jane vows to solve the centuries-old mystery of the ghostly monk that haunts the Abbey grounds. It seems one vision of the ghost assures certain death. Jane, of course, does not believe in such stories! And she will prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that ghosts do not exist.
When she arrives, Jane discovers there is more mystery than the ghost of a mad monk. A stable boy, Luke with exceptional and unappreciated engineering talents and an Indian servant girl, Deepti with hidden, unique abilities and big dreams worth fighting for soon join Jane in her eerie nighttime investigations. As the day of the celebrations draw near, they are thrown into chaotic events as a hovering lantern lights the ruins, a fire in the library destroys precious family documents, two prize horses are kidnapped with no trail to be found and a new-found friend, Fitzwilliam stands accused of nefarious deeds. With her notebook in hand and her faithful dog, Grandison by her side, Jane wages a secretive battle with preconceived notions and strict social guidelines to uncover the truth…but will she reveal all in time?
With all the charm and insight of the original Austen novels, and all the excitement and drama of a historical mystery, this is a delight! Here we have a plucky, bold young Jane displaying the skills that will lead her on to become a famous, beloved author and honing practical reporting and investigative tools to expose a fraudulent (perhaps) ghost and a deep-seated secret held within the Cromwell family; one that threatens to overturn generations of social standing. There is great attention to detail as Janes’ observation of fashion, food and family life weave their way through this story. With each new character that enters the story filling out the sense of society in the period, Golding offers a glimmer of Austens’ critique of the social constructs of the time. Turning these observations to the solving of mystery is absolute genius! With all the social morés of the time well intact and while honouring the historical nature of the tale, this book has a surprisingly contemporary feel in the writing. Janes’ character is conscientious, quirky, clever and determined. The allies she draws around her as she ventures forth on her night time sleuthing, are brilliantly cast, bringing unique and unusual skills to the art of detection. And the painting of the villains, their notions and deeds lead on to surprising twists and turns that keep you riveted to the page. Janes’ letters home to Cassandra, written as coded messages to keep her sister well-informed of all the goings-on add a wonderful, true-to-character element that tease and peak interest. And with the inclusion of plenty “Easter Eggs” seeded into the plot lead to a curiosity (and perhaps your own investigations?) about the original Jane Austen books.
While The Abbey Mystery is detailed and complex, it is a fast-paced, grabbing the attention and holding on tight. Each description oozes with atmosphere, painting the scenes with pin-point accuracy and unusual insight. As the story builds and the tension mounts, the end hands the reader an unexpected revelation that not only surprises, but delights and entertains. An absolutely gorgeous story soaked in the atmosphere of Austen, her life and her times; thoroughly enjoyable, beautifully imaginative and deliciously mysterious!
I am really looking forward to further Jane Austen Investigates mysteries. The best news in that regard is the second book in the series is due out in October of this year: Jane Austen Investigates: The Burglars’ Ball ! A young Jane Austen takes on the role of detective as she seeks to solve the mysterious happenings at the Abbey House School. It’s not available to pre-order yet, but my name will be first on the list!
Don’t forget to check out all the other fabulous bloggers on the Jane Austen Investigates Blog Tour. Each one is bringing new, thoughtful and exciting perspectives. (If you’re reading this, bloggers, you are all fantastic!)
Huge, huge thanks to Lion Hudson for providing me with a pre-publication review copy, to Fern for all her diligent work on this tour, and to Julia Golding for reappearing on my shelves with such a wondrous book. https://www.lionhudson.com/product/jane-austen-investigates