Jane and the Waterloo Map
by Stephanie Barron
Cover Artist: Cover Silhouette: Lyn Stone;
Cover charcoal: Jeff Wong.
Review by Gayle Surrette
Soho Crime Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616954253
Date: 02 February 2016 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Stephanie Barron writes Regency mysteries that take place within the time line of Jane Austen. Jane and the Waterloo Map begins Monday, 13 November 1815. Jane has traveled to London to live with her brother, Henry Austen, who is suffering from an illness. Jane is also working on the final edits to Emma prior to publication when she gets a summons to visit the Prince Regent's librarian at Carlton House. It turns out that the Prince enjoys Austen's novels and requests that she dedicate the next work to him. Jane doesn't particular like the Prince, but she cannot refuse either the summons or to dedicate Emma to him.
Thus far Barron has kept to the facts of Jane Austen's life. Where this story differs from the biography of Austen's life is when a death occurs at the library and Jane suspects foul play. The only clue to the murder is the victim struggling to say what sounded like 'Waterloo Map'. Based on the residue left on her handkerchief after wiping the victim's mouth, she believes that he was poisoned.
Jane can't quite keep herself from investigating and fortuitously she happens to reconnect with Raphael West, an artist who helped with the solution of the crime that took place in Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas. Together they seek to find the culprit before more deaths occur.
This book, like most in the series, is a delight for Jane Austen fans. You feel as if you are stepping through the page into Regency England. Austen is nursing her brother, who is ill, but also anxious about the health of his bank -- his stress is so high it is no wonder he's ill. She's also dealing with her publisher and trying to deal with problems when women are not allowed to do business, and ladies should never be involved in such activities. She finds it difficult to get her ideas regarding the death or murder taken seriously until Raphael West gets involved. Even then the communication between the two is difficult because of the strict limitations on single (unmarried) women communicating with unrelated men.
So, there are the restrictions of the social mores of the times, yet a murder to solve before another person is killed. There are unknown people who for unknown reasons want a lovely watercolor map, though it is very unlikely that it is for the artwork itself. Discovering why they want the map may lead to what the crime was about. There are also plenty of false trails, misleading information, and enough suspicious characters and actions to keep readers turning the pages.