Book Review: The Incredible Crime by Lois Austen-Leigh

The author was what caught my attention with this novel. Described in the introduction as follows: “The granddaughter of Jane Austen’s favorite nephew, Lois Austen-Leigh purportedly wrote her novels on the very writing desk at which her famous relative penned her masterpieces… Published in 1931, The Incredible Crime is the first of the four critically acclaimed novels Austen-Leigh published during the Golden Age, that period of crime fiction spanning the period between the two world wars.” Quite the remarkable introduction to an author of whom I hadn’t even heard!

The novel, sadly, didn’t quite live up to my hope of being the next Jane Austen, Barbara Peters or Carola Dunn but it was definitely readable. The mystery was more gentle than I anticipated and Prudence wasn’t the mystery-solver I hoped. The country habit of fox-hunting was alive and well in 1931 and, as an animal lover, this part of the story was a little distressing. There are no graphic descriptions to fear but there are a lot of foxes being chased, the whole hunt is a large part of the story. My favourite part is the romance thread that weaves throughout, its elegantly written and the dialogue engaging. The pacing is good and it’s an absorbing reading.

It’s a solid 3 on the en-JOY-ment scale and, hopefully if Poisoned Pen Press keeps publishing these novels, I’ll give another one of her novels a go!

From the back cover

Prince’s College, Cambridge, is a peaceful and scholarly community, enlivened by Prudence Pinsent, the Master’s daughter. Spirited, beautiful, and thoroughly unconventional, Prudence is a remarkable young woman. One fine morning she sets out for Suffolk to join her cousin Lord Wellende for a few days’ hunting. On the way Prudence encounters Captain Studde of the coastguard – who is pursuing a quarry of his own. Studde is on the trail of a drug smuggling ring that connects Wellende Hall with the cloistered world of Cambridge. It falls to Prudence to unravel the identity of the smugglers – who may be forced to kill, to protect their secret. This witty and entertaining crime novel has not been republished since the 1930s. This new edition includes an introduction by Kirsten T. Saxton, professor of English at Mills College, California.

Thank you to Netgalley and Poisoned Pen Press for the advance copy.

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