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Jane and the Genius of the Place
Jane Austen Mystery #4
Following the death of her father, Jane Austen travels to Kent to stay with her brother, Edward (Neddie) Austen and his wife, Lizzy. Neddie is a Justice in Kent. While Jane, Lizzy, the governess (Anne Sharpe), and one of Lizzy’s children (Fanny) are attending the Canterbury Race (horse racing), a woman named Mrs. Grey is murdered. Neddie is tasked with running the investigation.
At first, there is speculation that the murder was a crime of passion, and the culprit was a supposed lover. However, as the investigation continues, it looks like the murder had to do with the conflict between England and France. Napoleon and his army are rumored to preparing for an English invasion. As a result, the Austens are packing in anticipation of finding shelter elsewhere away from the coast. Grey is French and it is believed she may have been spying for France. Her death might be considered an act of war.
Central to this novel is the concept presented in the title— Genius of the Place. This phrase was coined by Alexander Pope. It refers to how a particular landscape evokes a type of spirit. Unfortunately, I cannot go into more detail because it would ruin the story. But I would advise readers to pay close attention to the issue of landscape and setting in this novel.
Additionally, this novel’s focus on England’s conflict with Napoleon results in parts of this novel being centered on politics. In the introduction, Stephanie Barron writes that many critics notice the lack of politics in Austen’s novels. However, as Barron explains, it does not mean that Austen was ignorant of politics. But perhaps, in my opinion, knowing all of this is going on in her time period, she wanted a respite from it in her novels. Her novels are more timeless and universal because she took politics out of the novels.
I was impressed with this mystery and the complexities of it. I highly recommend it. And please make sure to read the supplemental footnotes.
Next Novel in Series: Jane and the Stillroom Maid