Jane and the Man of Cloth

“September is a month of paradoxes—part decaying summer, part incipient autumn; and the complexity of its character decidedly suits my own.”

I am decidedly on a roll in terms of continuing series reads, though perhaps spurred by the fact that this is intended for the Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge. In Jane and the Man of Cloth, Stephanie Barron sends the authoress off to Lyme for a seaside vacation. There Jane makes the acquaintance of the mysterious and compelling Geoffrey Weymouth, but is distracted when a man is found hanging from a hastily constructed gallows on the shore. According to retired naval officer Captain Fielding, it is likely the work of the local ring of smugglers. After another body turns up, Jane’s heart compels her to find the truth, or she will never rest easy.

Jane enjoys a close relationship with her father, even confiding in him as the investigation grows stronger, while her mother comes off as more superficial. She is not mean or petty, just definitely not an intellectual equal with her daughter. It makes me wonder about the real Jane’s relationship with her mother. We know that she, Cassandra, and Mrs. Austen lived together after Mr. Austen’s death, much as the Dashwoods did in Sense and Sensibility, but that is the only Austen that I can think of in which the mother is portrayed in a positive light. (Mrs. Moreland seemed harmless, but did not really make much of an appearance in Northanger Abbey). In Persuasion, Emma, and Mansfield Park, the heroines are notably lacking in maternal influence.

“The only consolation in foul weather is to turn one’s lock upon the street, and settle in by the fire with tea and a good book–and hope that Cook will devise a meal that comforts, as the day fades into night.”

Jane-the-author’s keen eye for human nature is the biggest reason for her plausibility as a sleuth, and is present in her fictional version as well.  The characters are complex, and Jane has to look beyond what meets the eye to determine the truth. In the previous book, she investigated to save a friend; here, most of her initial findings come about because of idle curiosity. The recklessness of some of her actions surprised me, but it does make for an exciting read.

This is the book that I used as the springboard for my high school research paper about Jane’s romantic affairs. I loved Stephanie Barron’s creative take on the scant, enigmatic reference that Jane may have had a love affair during this time period, possibly with a reverend. I also have an inexplicable weakness for smugglers, maybe because it reminds me of Robin Hood.

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Published in: on October 2, 2011 at 12:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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