Jane Austen Investigates: The Abbey Mystery is an action packed, page turning mystery starring thirteen year old Jane Austen. Set in 1789 it gives a fascinating insight into the class system of the time, high society entertainment and new inventions. We love the way that it combines a fast paced mystery with a historical setting and has a brave, strong willed heroine who is not afraid to stand up for others.
The Story: After her older sister Cassandra has an accident, Jane is sent to Southmoor Abbey for a week to be Lady Cromwell’s companion while her household prepares for her eldest’s son’s coming of age party. Jane’s brother, Henry, has told her that there is a ghost, the Mad Monk, that haunts the abbey grounds but Jane doesn’t believe in ghosts and vows to uncover the mystery. While looking for answers she learns about a hidden family secret that could cost the Cromwell family everything and is drawn into adventures involving missing prize horses, an Indian family and a fire in the abbey’s library. It ends up being an eventful week for the clergyman’s daughter from rural Hampshire!
Jane Austen isn’t pretty like Cassandra but she’s fiercely independent. Her mother despairs of her rebellious streak and hopes that a week with Lady Cromwell will help her learn how to behave more like a lady. Jane’s first act of rebellion is to bring her faithful doggy friend, Grandison, who must remain in the stables but Jane’s visits to see him give her the opportunity to meet the horses and learn more about the mysterious ghost as well as the various members of the household.
Southmoor Abbey is home to a colourful cast of characters from Sir Charles, master of the house, down to Luke, the stable boy. There’s also Lady Cromwell, birthday boy, Wickham, and Fitzwilliam, the son of Sir Charles’ steward. Arjun, the chef, and his daughter, Deepti, are from India and Jane is fascinated to learn more about Indian culture. This interesting mix of characters help to move the plot forward and give clues throughout as to the identity of the character who has stolen the horses. Jane’s new friends, particularly Luke and Deepti, help her piece together clues about the mystery of the ghost haunting the spooky abbey ruins as well as rescuing her from dangerous situations.
Throughout the story Jane has her notebook with her and writes witty letters to Cassandra detailing her adventures and observations about the people around her. She is a quick thinking character, who, although mindful of her place in society, is not afraid to speak out when necessary. The story shows the restrictions placed on women in a patriarchal society but despite these restrictions Jane and Deepti are both strong and determined young ladies and their friendship transcends class and race barriers.
A multitude of intriguing events occur and as the story progresses they are cleverly woven together. As Jane investigates further she discovers that the fire in the library, the ghost and the disappearance of Sir Charles’ prize horses are interlinked and we were really surprised when the mystery of the prize horses was uncovered!
Jane Austen Investigates: The Abbey Mystery would be a wonderful book to read as a Key Stage Three class text, there are so many different characters and events for children to identify tiny with and a multitude of themes to explore. The style of language suits the Regency era in which the book is set but is also easy to read. Jane is a likeable heroine and the story can stimulate discussion about a girl’s place in society at that time and the class system.
Although based on the character of the real Jane Austen, this story is completely fictitious. But hopefully it will encourage children to read more of the real Jane Austen’s work.
Age Range: 9 +
Author: Julia Golding
Thank you to Lion Hudson for sending a proof copy of this beautifully written novel. We’re looking forward to reading the next in the series, Jane Austen Investigates: The Burglar’s Ball.
You can find out more about Jane Austen Investigates: The Abbey Mystery by visiting the other stops on the blog tour;