A Most Singular Venture: Murder in Jane Austen’s London (Elizabeth and Richard Literary Suspense Book 5
hin this historical novel there are many different stories, plot lines and characters that will keep you interested for numerous reasons. Jane Austen’s writing is original, unique and her research impeccable as author Donna Fletcher Crow brings her writing, novels and personal life back to life in this British mystery filled with many different voices from the past and the present. Dr. Richard Spencer is now instructing a group of students during a summer course hoping to excite and interest them into learning more about the life of Jane Austen considered the Queen of Crime. The setting is a University in London while his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Spencer researches her life, takes us on many tours of places that she visited inside museums, banks, restaurants and landmarks and banks giving us an up close and personal tour of the many venues that she wrote about and the places where she lived. But, the course and her research are just part of the structure of this multi-complex novel as we meet Andrew, Richard’s brother whose publishing company and Andrew has bit on a set of first edition books by Austen and hopes that he wins it. The winner gets the books and the losers their money back as this is a secret sale and no one knows the bidders or the amounts. As Elizabeth guides readers and the other characters through the many places that Jane visited or wrote about you begin to get a sense of the varied ways she created her mysteries, taught readers about the unreliable narrator who leads you in one direction and is wrong about his/her thoughts or findings. We learn about Emma the novel and we realize that there are hidden plot lines and different ways Austen leads the reader to understand about what happened to Frank and who might have killed him or was he killed? Meet Babs who is part of Richard’s class and Jeremy Turner who is injured and appears to have been pushed by someone close to the auction named Sara. We also meet 11-year-old Jack who is priceless, smart and a wealth of information often asking questions not indicative of a child his age. While Elizabeth is writing articles about Austen and refers to letters she wrote Richard is teaching his courses and provides stimulating topics, open ended questions and his class with Babs, Jeremy, Wanda and others is quite interesting allowing the reader to take the classes along with the students. Andrew is still concerned about the bid for the first edition Austen books that have been verified as authentic by an art dealer. These books are worth a million dollars and of course there are many that are unsavory that would love to get them any way they can and some might be using Richard’s classes to get inside information.
Things change as Richard goes into depth about the writing of PD James one of my favorite authors and we learn about her mode of writing a mystery. Meanwhile Jack seems to be taken with Babs, but why is she so interested in helping with the case even Elizabeth doubts her veracity. Elizabeth takes us to museums; the bank Henry Austen owned and the research that Elizabeth takes us to different places that most of us would love to visit and even Buckingham Palace and the amazing changing of the guard.
The intrigue continues as Elizabeth begins to realize that not everyone or everything is who or what they appear of seem to be trying to figure out who killed the man in charge of the auction and then Sara. As Richard continues his lectures he reminds readers of the Queen of Crime P.D. James and the question that many authors still ask and might be answered if you read this novel closely: What it requires to a mystery facts which are hidden from the reader but which he/she should be able to discover by logical deduction from clues inserted in the novel with deceptive cunning but essential fairness. In Emma it’s about misdirection and cover-up. Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax couldn’t have been slyer when covering a dead body. Free Indirect Speech is defined as third person narration that gives us the essence of first person direct speech. You actually as he describes and relates gets the character’s exact words without introductory phrases as She said or She though because it is being heard in the mind of the narrator and filtered through he/her consciousness. As you read the book and learn more about Jane Austen you will understand this technique of writing and how it’s related to her work.
Clive Kentworth was murdered but why? Bramwell Child is the head of the bank so what role does he play? Legacy House was handling under Kentworth’s direction the sealed sale. Someone killed him to keep him quiet because he knew too much about the truth behind the books being sold and more. Added in Sara Ashley Herbert was the next victim working closely on this sale and somehow was involved in something illegal. Reminding us about the mystery man at the theater who was with Sara was he a lover, brother or someone else? Could Sara have been blackmailing someone over a rare manuscript? Sara was fond of Andrew or was she using him for some other purpose? Someone killed Sara but why? Why did someone push Sara under the wheels of a rushing train? In whose way was she and was this about money, power or love? Jeremy met Sara at Hatchards. She worked with many people there and Jeremy the intern appeared to be helpful but now everyone is who they appear to be. Gerard Asquith the art appraiser we learn certified that the books were authentic providing Andrew the knowledge he needed to place his bid on them. Did Sara know something sinister about Asquith? Clive Kentworth handling the auction and an unknown seller of the books. Dead and Sara too! How were they connected and who pushed Sara? What was her relationship with Kentworth did that put her in danger? Bramwell Child who represented the bank and the middleman who received the money from the bidders and held it until the auction ended. Who else as Richard and Elizabeth do their own detective work to figure out who is responsible for both deaths and why?
There is much more as we get to know Jack who has been taken by Andrew as his newly adopted Uncle and who thinks Babs is the greatest but when Elizabeth is injured by someone who hits her over the head just what did Jack see and will he be able to tell it in time to save her before the killer takes action at him? Things get tight and dangerous and two lives are in check as the killer comes to light but who will survive? Swindles, liars, forgeries, money, greed, power and a guilty conscience are all issues in this well researched book that will entice readers to read P.D. James, Austen, Dorothy Bayer Sayers and my favorite Agatha Christie as once again author Donna Fletcher Crow does extensive research to bring all of these authors back to life in this amazing tour of London that we took with Elizabeth and Richard in A MOST SINGULAR VENTURE!
Can’t wait to find out what these characters get into next!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine