This is another of Jane Austen's adventures in intrigue as the intelligent authoress attempts to find evidence that will acquite her brother's friend Captain Seagrave from being hung for allegedly murdering a Frendh sea captain after he surrendered. She ends up tending the sick French prisoners in order to find out what actually happened on the French ship. There she meets the prisoner, Etienne La Forge, a curiously noble and educated ship's surgeon who has the evidence she needs. However, his testimony to save Seagrave puts his own life in danger. The plot revolves around saving not only Seagrave, but also Etienne from someone who is out to murder them.
This report prepared by Amanda Mathieu
Bantam, Dec 2001, 23.95, 291 pp.
In 1807, Jane Austen and her mother live in the home of her brother Frank until their own residence can be made ready. Frank, a captain in the British Royal Navy, is without a ship at present but might get command of the Stella Maris. Frank wants his own command, but not at the cost of his good friend captain Thomas Seagraves, who will have been hung after a court-martial for killing a French officer during a flag of truce.
His lieutenant accuses Thomas of this crime. On the day of the court martial, the lieutenant fails to show up. Soon word arrives at the hearing that he was found murdered by a garrote. Thomas is arrested for the crime and awaits trial but instead Jane Austen, influenced by her brother's opinion of the man decides to investigate and see if she can find evidence that will clear him.
Stephanie Barron writes in a style similar to that of Jane Austen so that the reader actually feels that they are reading a nineteenth century style cozy-amateur sleuth tale. The intelligent Jane is so independent, she seems as if she would be more at home in the present century then she was in her own time. The heroine never quite crosses the line into scandal, but Jane is so out of the box that she pushes the boundaries to the outer limit as a blue stocking. JANE AND THE PRISONER OF WOOL HOUSE is a fascinating mystery that relies on the readers sleuthing abilities to find out who the perpetrator really is.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner