I had never heard of this author before, but apparently she’s a prolific mystery novelist, writing under this name as well as Barbara Pym. The story is somewhat Austen-adjacent, but not in the way you would expect. In this book, the main characters are Elinor and Charlotte Cowper. The story unfolds mainly through letters to Charlotte (hence the name), but inserted in the letters are actual excerpts of letters Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra. It’s fairly easy to figure out what language is Austen’s, although the author does try her best.
So the story is a cozy mystery, set in Lyme (one of Austen’s favorite places). There’s a wealthy family, and the matriarch dies under mysterious circumstances. Was it a heart attack, or was it poison? And if it was poison, whodunnit and why? She was pretty nasty, so no one’s really broken up about it.
Some of the main suspects are her husband, a couple of relatives who stand to benefit from her death, and a few others. Elinor tells Charlotte about everything that’s going on, from the dances to the murder investigation. The epistolary nature of the book sets it a little bit apart from other mysteries I’ve read, but also limits the narrative, since we’re stuck in first person.
This is a perfectly fine story, especially if you like the Regency stuff, and/or if you like cozy mysteries. It took me a while to figure out who did it, but once it popped out, it was pretty obvious. It was a quick read, and (as you know I like) a nice distraction from the usual bullish*t of my life.