Jane and the Genius of the Place

Jane Austen (yes, that Jane Austen) here embarks upon her fourth crime-solving escapade in Stephanie Barron’s fanciful historical mystery series Jane and the Genius of the Place. In 1805, Jane is ”hard on the heels of thirty” but possessed of the same analytical powers and keen social observations that mark her better known incarnation as a writer. When a Frenchwoman is killed at the Canterbury Races, Jane is swept into a political maelstrom, as Napoleon Bonaparte threatens to invade England. Although the plot strains credibility, Barron does a wonderful job of evoking the great British estates and the woes of a spinster living in that era (the ”poverty that weighs upon the soul and renders the mind weary”), often echoing the rhythms of the Austen novels with uncanny ease. B+