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Bibliographical Information
Mysterious Death of Miss Austen, The
Lindsay Ashford
ISBN: 9781906784263 (1906784264)Publication Date September 2011
Publisher: Honno, Aberystwyth
Format: Paperback, 198x129 mm, 336 pages Language: English Non-Stock Item - Ordered on request Our Price: £8.99   
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English Book of the Month: November 2011
The tragically early death of Jane Austen has never been satisfactorily explained. This intriguing novel delves into the Austens' lives and suggests a new and shocking possibility. Miss Anne Sharp, friend to Jane and governess at Edward Austen's home is determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious death of Miss Austen.

Nid oes ateb boddhaol yn egluro marwolaeth annisgwyl Jane Austen. Dyma nofel sy'n cynnig portread dychmygol o deulu'r nofelydd, ac yn cynnig y posibilrwydd fod gan Miss Anne Sharp, ffrind i Jane, wybodaeth am y farwolaeth.
When author Lindsay Ashford moved to Chawton in Hampshire, she was planning to write another contemporary crime novel to add to her successful series featuring the forensic psychologist Megan Rhys. She found herself living in a sixteenth-century dovecote owned by a living relative of Jane Austen and working in the library of a house once owned by Jane Austenís brother, Edward. With access to volumes of Austen family letters and diaries, and in surroundings well known to Jane Austen and her family, it is hardly surprising that Ashford abandoned her modern novel to plunge into a mystery made all the more fascinating because it is inspired by facts that could prove the key to answering a real-life question: did Jane Austen die of natural causes or was she murdered?

Jane Austen died in 1817 at the age 41, which was the shortest lifespan by far of her immediate family members. Twenty-six years later her friend, Anne Sharp, learns of the new Marsh test and hopes that medical science has progressed enough to prove that Jane was murdered. Fiction echoes fact when a lock of Janeís hair is analysed and proves to contain large amounts of arsenic. (Today you can visit Jane Austenís cottage at Chawton, where you can indeed view a lock of her hair which was tested in the twentieth century and found to contain injurious levels of arsenic.)

Anne Sharp is the narrator and instigator of this record of events leading up to Janeís death. She and Jane Austen met when Anne was working as a governess in the household of Janeís brother Edward. They became life-long friends despite the difference in their social standing and this distance allows her a clearer perspective on events in the Austen family.

The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen relates how Anne Sharp formulates theories and motives as she attempts to unravel the facts and deal with her suspicions of foul play and her feelings of loss, helplessness and anger at Janeís untimely death.

Ashford has written a compelling and believable story which had me completely enthralled. She uses her experience of writing crime fiction, her knowledge of modern forensics and her vivid imagination to weave fact with fiction and conjecture. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and can heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the life and death of Jane Austen and to lovers of crime fiction who were not so fortunate as to receive a copy of The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen for Christmas!

Catriona Jackson


It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiat‚d Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Author Biography:
Lindsay Ashford divides her time between the West Wales coast and Chawton House in Hampshire. Chawton House was the home of Jane Austen's brother, in the village where Jane Austen spent the most productive years of her literary life and houses a unique library focusing on women's writing in English from 1600 to 1830. Lindsay was the originator of the Jane Austen Short Story Award, the first anthology from which, Dancing with Mr. Darcy, edited by Sarah Waters, was published in 2009. Lindsay also has a degree in Criminology from Cambridge University and has published four critically acclaimed crime novels, one of which was shortlisted for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.
Further Information:
No one has ever been able to provide a satisfactory explanation for the tragically early death of Jane Austen. This intriguing novel delves into the private lives of the Austen family and comes up with a new and shocking possibility...

Miss Anne Sharp holds the position of governess at the Godmersham home of Edward Austen. She becomes friendly with his literary sister, Jane, when the latter arrives for an extended stay. Also a frequent visitor is a younger Austen brother, the maverick Henry. Anne becomes convinced that Henry is having an illicit affair with her employerís wife and Jane too has her suspicions on this account.

When Jane Austen dies at the age of just 41, Anne is devastated. She begins to suspect that someone wanted her out of the way because she knew too much. Her fears are heightened by the death of yet another family member soon after.

The story opens with two letters establishing that Anne has sought to confirm her suspicions now that medical science has progressed sufficiently to assess the evidence presented by a tainted lock of Jane Austenís hair. Natural causes or murder? Even after more than twenty years, Miss Sharp is determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious death of the acclaimed Miss Austen ...

A speculative exploration of the circumstances that might have precipitated the tragically early death of one of historyís greatest writers.

Details of Austenís life and illness taken from her own and relativesí correspondence.

Lindsay Ashford is an established crime writer now living and working at the heart of the Jane Austen heritage movement Ė Chawton House in Hampshire

From the author of the acclaimed Megan Rhys crime series: shortlisted for the Theakstonís Old Peculier Award.

Will appeal to fans of Austenís work and its contemporary sequels Ė tapping into enduring fascination with the author, her work and her life.
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