Christmas Eve, 1814: Jane Austen has been invited to spend the holiday with family and friends at The Vyne, the gorgeous ancestral home of the wealthy and politically prominent Chute family. As the year fades and friends begin to gather beneath the mistletoe for the twelve days of Christmas festivities, Jane and her circle are in a celebratory mood: Mansfield Park is selling nicely; Napoleon has been banished to Elba; British forces have seized Washington, DC; and on Christmas Eve, John Quincy Adams signs the Treaty of Ghent, which will end a war nobody in England really wanted.
Jane, however, discovers holiday cheer is fleeting. One of the Yuletide dies in a tragic accident whose circumstances Jane immediately views with suspicion. If the accident was in fact murder, the killer is one of Jane’s fellow snow-bound guests. With clues scattered amidst cleverly-crafted charades, dark secrets coming to light during parlor games, and old friendships returning to haunt the Christmas parties, whom can Jane trust to help her discover the truth and stop the killer from striking again?
I thought it might be fun to try out the Jane Austen mystery series by starting with a Christmas special, a book set over the twelve days of Christmas. I’m fond of Jane Austenish stories and I usually enjoy Kate Reading’s narration, so my wife and I sat down this evening ready to be entertained by a cosy Christmas mystery.
Sadly, we didn’t make it further than the first day of Christmas. We listened to a little over an hour of the book with a slowly fading hope of entertainment that died altogether during a long look-at-all-the-details-I’ve-researched description of The Vines, the country house in which I assume the murder would take place.
The text was heavy the dialogue was laboured and unconvincing and the action minimal. I think the book suffered because I couldn’t help comparing it to Jane Austen’s writing which delivers the narrative with a light touch, powered by sparkling dialogue and witty descriptions of people and their habits. It was the reading equivalent of walking into a well-proportioned Georgian room and finding it so stuffed with Victorian bric-a-brac that all its elegance has been lost.
This is book twelve in the series so these books must be working well for some readers but I’m afraid it’s not for me.