"Murder Most Austen" by Tracy Kiely
Reviewed by David Marshall James
Tracy Kiely's fourth Elizabeth Parker mystery clicks on every level, offering a richly glazed treat to Jane Austen fans.
"Murder Most Austen" sounds the tone and tenor of a Regency period novel set in the present, with the presently unemployed and at-multiple-loose-ends Miss Parker being treated to a Jane Austen festival in Bath, England, complete with balls and period costumes, by her Aunt Winnie.
Duly note the young woman traveling abroad with her great-aunt-slash-chaperone; however, if one must be chaperoned, Aunt Winnie would land near the top of one's list.
However, a skunk is befouling the garden party, as it were: A wealthy, handsome professor of English from the States-- a monument to pomposity intent on reading salacious subtexts not only into the Austen oeuvre, but also into her biography.
As can be readily imagined, said disgrace to scholarship and Janeites everywhere has accumulated a formidable tally of detractors, becoming a prime candidate for permanent silencing.
Unfortunately-- or fortunately, given Elizabeth's amateur detecting skills (Aunt Winnie insists that her great-niece train as a professional)-- one of Professor Pomposity's most vituperative vilifiers is an old aquaintance of Aunt Winnie.
Elizabeth and Aunt Winnie make a delightful pair of sleuths and sparring partners. They haven't been together much since Kiely's first novel, "Murder at Longbourn," which someone I know well considers the best in the series (not yet having read this fourth).
Although I've liked all of Kiely's preceding novels, this one now stands out as the far-and-away best of the batch.
From the opinion of the above-referenced fellow reader (a Janeite down to her beribboned bonnet and Empire-waisted dress), coupled with the indisputable pleasure derived from this novel, perhaps Elizabeth and Aunt Winnie ought to be together more often-- perhaps at that new, "Austen-Tatious" inn that Aunt Winnie is planning to open?
"Murder Most Austen" is flavored with witty, often humorous dialogue and clever plotting, as well as spot-on characterizations.
Miss Austen most probably would be much taken with Elizabeth Parker's observations, there being no subtextual theorizing to the pronouncement that the revered Regency-era novelist subscribed to the felicity of what is presently deemed "snarkiness."
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