Bantam, Mar 2005, 24.00, 292 pp.
Edward Austin, Jane's wealthy brother, owns the freehold of every house in Chawton Village; he gives his sister and their mother the cottage of the late bailiff, booting out his wife which made the villagers irate. The female Austins believe the renovated cottage will make a happy home for them, a new beginning of sorts. On their first day in their new home, a lawyer visits Jane with a Bengal trunk that contains the letters, dairies, and miscellaneous papers of Lord Harold Trowbridge, the only man Jane ever loved.
Realizing that the trunk contains items that people would kill to own, she has it taken to the basement where they find a dead body. That same night while dining at the magistrate's house, someone steals the trunk and a laborer is arrested for the crime. A new arrival, Justin Thrace, arouses gossip and suspicion because he claims to be the heir of Freddy Vansittart, the Earl of Holbrook. The Earl has his country home in Chawton and is known to all the villagers. Thrace and his half-sister Imogen are riding when she is thrown from her horse and dies because a thorn was placed beneath the saddle. Justin runs from the law after people accuse him of placing the thorn there to eliminate a heir to the earl's money. Jane learns from a neighbor that the corpse in the cellar was placed there by a neighbor Mr. Hinton who hates the Austens because he thinks they cheated him out of his inheritance. As she makes inquiries she thinks the real killer has yet to surface.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner