Every chapter of Tracy Kiely’s new mystery, Murder Most Austen, begins with a pithy quote from Jane herself, the undisputed mistress of early 19th-century British literary fiction. For Austenites, this is cause for celebration. What’s more, the story is packed with Austen allusions, and Kiely’s narrative combines a well-constructed plot with a nice and easy sense of humor.
Kiely has fashioned a series with strong, admiring links to Austen the Original. In this installment, the series heroine, Elizabeth Parker, has traveled with her aunt Winnie to Bath, England, to attend that city’s annual Jane Austen Festival. As usual, where Elizabeth goes, along comes a murder or two. The Anglophile young woman soon finds out that real murder in present-day England is not quite the same as the cozy plots of a bygone Jane Marple day.
An egocentric English professor from America has promised to deliver a paper at the festival that will turn Austen fans on their ears with its supposed revelations about what “really” lies behind the author’s writings. Quite a few people are mightily upset by his claims, including Cora, an old friend of Aunt Winnie. Cora can’t seem to let the professor’s ridiculous propositions die a natural death, and she confronts him at every opportunity. Thus, when the professor dies a very unnatural death, suspicion immediately falls on Cora. Elizabeth is drawn into the fray in order to prove Cora’s innocence.
Tracy Kiely’s many fans will welcome another installment in a series that brings the brilliant Jane Austen to the forefront.
The strange assortment of possible suspects includes the dead man’s wife, ex-wife and a lover or two; an exasperating Brit named John Ragget, who insists on showing off his local knowledge to all and sundry; the professor’s square-jawed assistant; Cora’s seemingly naïve daughter; and the nasty professor’s equally nasty daughter-in-law.
Another murder ups the ante, but faithful readers will likely uncover the villain at about the same time as Elizabeth, who ends up confronting the real killer with—I might venture to say—a very unlikely final thrust. But then, this is fiction, and Kiely’s many fans will welcome another installment in a series that brings the brilliant Austen to the forefront.