Skip to main content

Ghosts, Horse Thieves and Teenage Sleuths: The Abbey Mystery - Review

    I read Julia Golding’s previous novel The Tigers In TheTower last year, and loved its period setting and strong-minded heroine. (Read my review here). Golding's latest book has the same hallmarks but is set in the Regency rather than Victorian period. It is an enjoyable tale aimed at middle grade readers, but there’s nothing stopping mums and dads with a penchant for Austen and light mysteries from reading this. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies it ain’t, but if you like your adventures wholesome and your twists gentle, this is for you.


    It follows a teenage Jane Austen and her trusty dog Grandison as they are sent to spend a few days at the Southmoor Abbey estate to help Lord and Lady Cromwell prepare for their son’s coming of age celebrations.  But something is not quite right, and Jane is determined to find out what is happening.

    As someone who feasted on a diet of Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew mysteries while growing up, I was pleased to find that this book has all the classic mystery elements, from stolen horses to burnt inheritance papers, to the ghost of a Mad Monk haunting the ruins of an ancient abbey.

    The no-nonsense young heroine is endowed with bags of wit, courage and energy, and would much rather be out exploring the ruins and looking for the ghost than stuck indoors sewing or winding up Lady Cromwell’s silk threads. She writes interesting letters to her family at home, and makes acute observations about the people around her. The letters written by Jane to her family are actually very clever and fun to read - and were probably great fun to write. In fact they could easily be used as a starting-point to encourage children to experiment with the dying art of letter-writing (a nice lockdown project, maybe?).

    I can't not mention the unique side characters, among them a stable-boy who’s also a budding engineer, and the sword-wielding, bareback-riding daughter of an Indian warrior. The allusions to upper class interests in the East India Company, and their exploitation of Indians who were brought to Britain as servants, are sensitively handled. I loved that Jane’s friendships transcended any barriers of class or race, and I hope there will be opportunities in future stories to see the friendship between Deepti and Jane develop further.

    The Easter eggs scattered throughout are a nice touch, suggesting inspiration for Jane's future novels - a device that reminds me of the Brontë mysteries by Bella Ellis. However, I feel these details might sail over the heads of younger readers, and be more for the benefit of parents or teachers who are reading the books to children. That said, this doesn’t detract from the story at all.

    Although the language is mostly accessible I’m not sure how it would be received by readers of 9 and upwards, as the cover suggests. I think the historical and social aspects of the story would appeal more to slightly older readers so I would say it was better suited to readers aged 11 and over. 

    As an adult reader who already loves all things Regency, I found this a hugely entertaining read. I loved spotting the Easter eggs and the glimpses of the quirky and intelligent Austen family. It could be a great introduction to Jane Austen for more confident readers, while I’m sure younger readers will enjoy cheering on the bold heroine, booing the villains, and trying to unravel the mystery along with Jane.

    Oh and can I also say how much I love the beautiful cover?

    Clever, engaging and well-paced. I hope this will become a series as I would love to read more.

    Brown Bronte rating: 4 stars


Tell me what you think in the comments!

Follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Join the conversation at The Brown Brontë's Book Club .

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Home Is Where The Heart Is: Hashim and Family

It’s a difficult time right now for debut authors to be releasing books. So as a book blogger I’m trying to do my bit by sharing my thoughts on this wonderful debut novel: Hashim and Family, by Shahnaz Ahsan. Before we start I have to tell you that I know the author personally, and OBVIOUSLY I’m bursting with pride for her, so if you feel you need to take this review with a grain or two of salt, please do so. However, rest assured that I never recommend a book that I don’t genuinely think is worth reading. The story: It’s Manchester in 1960 and Hashim has just arrived in Britain from East Pakistan – now known as Bangladesh. He moves into a shared house with his jovial cousin Rofikul and sets about trying to build himself a life. We see the two men going to work, socialising with their friends and navigating life in a new immigrant community. It’s not easy to adjust to a foreign country – the weather, the food, the unfamiliar ways. And people aren’t always friendly. But

Rediscovering My Roots: Literacy and History on Mother Language Day

 You may know that today is International Mother Language Day , but why is it important?      On this day in 1952, in what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Bengali university students were shot and killed by armed police, while protesting for the recognition of Bangla, rather than Urdu, as the official language of East Pakistan. It would be some years before Bangla was officially recognised as the state language of East Pakistan, but this day marked the beginning of the independence movement for a sovereign Bangladesh. People in Bangladesh mark today with a national holiday, songs and poetry recitals, repeating the words “amra tomader bhulbo na.” We will not forget you. monument to the martyrs of the language movement      My parents have always tried to instill in us a sense of the importance of learning Bangla, but for many Bangladeshis in Britain, their mother tongue is not actually the ‘standard’ Bangla but one of the regional dialects from Sylhet, Noakhali, Chittagong o

Misogyny, corruption and family ties: You Beneath Your Skin, Damyanti Biswas

In her tautly-written debut, author Damyanti Biswas explores the misogyny, corruption and social inequalities that exist in Delhi’s seamy underbelly. Dark and atmospheric, the book sits within the Indian noir genre that has inspired Hindi movies such as Mardaani and Talaash. It follows psychotherapist Dr Anjali Morgan as she juggles her work at a women’s project in inner-city Delhi, with her complicated personal life: her fraught relationship with her teenage son Nikhil, who has autism; her friendship with Maya who runs a small detective agency, and her on-off affair with Maya’s brother, Special Crime Commissioner Jatin Bhatt. When the three of them begin to work on a case solving a spate of grotesque murders in which slum women are raped and killed, their faces disfigured with acid, it exposes old scars and creates new ones in the personal lives of the main characters. With her brooding writing style and the narrative split between multiple viewpoints, Biswas skilfully lays bare the h