Wednesday, December 8, 2021

ARC Review: Jane Austen's Lost Letters by Jane K. Cleland

Jane Austen's Lost Letters

Jane K. Cleland
Series: Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries (Book 14)
Publication: Minotaur Books (December 14, 2021)

Description: Jane K. Cleland returns with Jane Austen's Lost Letters, the fourteenth installment in the beloved Josie Prescott Antiques series, set on the rugged New Hampshire coast.

Antiques appraiser Josie Prescott is in the midst of filming a segment for her new television show, Josie’s Antiques, when the assistant director interrupts to let her know she has a visitor. Josie reluctantly pauses production and goes outside, where she finds an elegant older woman waiting to see her.

Veronica Sutton introduces herself as an old friend of Josie’s father, who had died twenty years earlier. Veronica seems fidgety, and after only a few minutes, hands Josie a brown paper-wrapped package, about the size of a shoebox, and leaves.

Mystified, Josie opens the package, and gasps when she sees what’s inside: a notecard bearing her name―in her father’s handwriting―and a green leather box. Inside the box are two letters in transparent plastic sleeves. The first bears the salutation, “My dear Cassandra,” the latter, “Dearest Fanny.” Both are signed “Jane Austen.” Could her father have really accidentally found two previously unknown letters by one of the world’s most beloved authors―Jane Austen? Reeling, Josie tries to track down Veronica, but the woman has vanished without a trace.

Josie sets off on the quest of a lifetime to learn what Veronica knows about her father and to discover whether the Jane Austen letters are real. As she draws close to the truth, she finds herself in danger, and learns that some people will do anything to keep a secret―even kill.

My Thoughts: Josie Prescott of Prescott's Antiques and the TV show Josie's Antiques is in the middle of filming when she is called to the front to meet a lady named Veronica Sutton who introduces herself as "a good friend of your father's" and hands her a wrapped package. She leaves without answering any of Josie's questions and there are many. Who is she? Why hadn't Josie heard of her before? Why did she keep the package until now when Josie's father died when the Twin Towers came down? 

Josie is eager to learn more especially after she unwraps the package to find a note from her father and two previously unknown letters authored by Jane Austen. The letters, if authentic, would be blockbuster. Josie needs to find Veronica and learn more about how she knew Josie's father and about the provenance of the letters.

But it's back to work first. Josie is filming an episode which pits two experts against one another in authenticating a First Edition and autographed copy of Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The first expert is Oliver Crenshaw is the third generation owner of Crenshaw's Rare Books, Prints and Autographs. Josie has worked with him frequently. He has brought his mother Rory with him to the filming. The second expert is Dr. Gloria Moreau who is famous for her techniques for authenticating signatures. She brought her graduate assistant Ivan Filbert with her. 

Filming goes pretty well. Josie is glad to meet Gloria and thinks they could become friends. But the next day, when the participants are supposed to meet again to clear up some problems with the audio recording, Gloria is late. No one can contact her. Josie finds her body when she is checking out the area around the building because of a strange man who was hanging out around the studio the day before. 

Now, besides the mystery of Veronica Sutton and the Jane Austen letters, Josie is trying to discover who murdered Gloria and why.  Things get even more complicated when Ivan is also murdered and someone takes some shots at Josie. 

This story was filled with interwoven mysteries, secrets, and discoveries. I enjoyed the information about antiques especially the way written documents are authenticated. I enjoyed Josie's rapport with the local police and her role in helping to solve the murders using her own expertise. 

This is the fourteenth book in a series, but the first one I have read. It stood alone quite well. While there were lots of characters, presumably accrued from earlier stories in the series, they were all introduced sufficiently and I wasn't confused about who fits where. I am eager now to read some of the earlier books in the series and get to learn more about Josie and her friends and business. 

Favorite Quote:
Ellis said patience was a virtue, but I wasn't convinced. In fact, I thought patience was often overrated. Persistence and perseverance when working toward a specific goal, sure. Telling someone to be patient, though, was all too often simply a ploy to keep them out of your hair. The worse was when people dressed it up as righteousness.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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