This installation of a series beloved to me seems to have less “Jane” and more madness. While I am glad that Jane and Henry get to enjoy each other’s company, the other characters, and even the settings of this book, feel less solid than I have come to expect. Perhaps as there is more fiction – fewer of Austen’s actual letters to hang the fiction on – I found the descriptions of Brighton, pavilion, rooms, less clear and immersive than previous works. Still, the action led to an interesting plot; As with all mysteries, the blinds and dead ends were enjoyable. Unfortunately, Jane’s single minded coherence is lost in the efforts of too many characters, going to too many places, causing a tumbled, unstructured narrative that feels different than Jane writing to herself in her little journal. Despite the more ‘active’ nature and pace, I was still able to linger over some description. I enjoyed the Master of Ceremonies character who socio-autistically recalls every person, every dance, and every aspect of ‘toilet’ for every Assembly. Useful in a murder investigation, to be sure. The flirt with Lord Harold’s broader tale – then continuation of The Elephant In The Room – was disappointing, and made Mona feel less a ‘friend’ than a haute ton convenience of plot. Still, I enjoy every one of these novels like canvassing what is new with old friends: this one is just more like tepid coffee with an old friend who is having an off day.
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