This is such a fun read!
Name: Jane Austen Investigates: The Burglar’s Ball
Author: Julia Golding
Publish Date: 22nd October 2021
Join young budding detective Jane Austen in her second investigation to uncover a devious diamond thief at the glitziest, most scandalous ball of the year! Inspired by Sense and Sensibility.
When the headmistress invites her past favourite pupil to attend their end of term ball, Cassandra brings her younger sister, Jane, along too. Cassandra plunges into the feverish excitement of preparing for the biggest event of the year – the dresses, the dances and the boys expected from the neighbouring school.
Feeling rather excluded, sharp-witted Jane unearths the reason for the fuss – the headteacher wants to impress a rich family returned from India as the school is at risk of going bankrupt. Jane also befriends the dancing master’s assistant, a former slave, called Brandon, who is as quick to notice things as she. At the ball, a diamond necklace is stolen from a locked room and they are propelled into a race to uncover the burglar and save Brandon from gaol.
With the ever-present Austen spirit, Jane with notebook in hand, boldly overcomes the obstacles to finding the truth.
A huge thank you to the publishers for providing me with an advanced copy in return for an honest review via Netgalley. I read the first book in the Jane Austen Investigates series through Netgalley as well, and was thrilled to be able to join Jane on her adventures again. You can find my review of The Abbey Mystery (book one!) here. While you can read this book first, I’d recommend reading the series chronologically as there are recurring characters you met previously. I enjoyed seeing what Jane’s friends from The Abbey Mystery were up to and it still felt like we were learning new things about them.
Jane is the highlight of the series and I love her relationship with her sister. The narration is humorous and fun too. Dotted in between chapters are Jane’s imaginative letters to her brother; they’re full of codes that younger readers will love. I wish I’d had this book when I was younger!
“Everyone looked at her in surprise. True, a girl in a grubby hemmed muslin dress didn’t seem a likely person to have unearthed such a plot, but then it was often the ones sitting in the corner overlooked who saw most.”– THE BURGLAR’S BALL
Despite not having read Sense and Sensibility, I can see how Julia Golding has taken inspiration from the time period. The author has clearly done her research and everything feels very genuine. The Burglar’s Ball is more insightful than the first book – there is exploration of the British Empire from the point of view of those occupied, and the slave trade. I haven’t seen these topics a lot in children’s books; while they don’t overpower the mystery it’s enough to inform younger readers.
“In Jane’s opinion, Cassandra had too strong a belief in the rational behaviour of mankind”– TOO TRUE, JANE
My only comment is that I’d like it if Brandon, the ex-slave whose name Jane is trying to clear, had a stronger character and stronger hand in proving his innocence. He was fine, but at points he felt less of a developed character and more of a plot point; some people might see it as bordering on white-saviour themes.
To sum up, the Jane Austen Investigates books are so entertaining for any age. The mystery is engaging and easily solvable, although there are some unexpected twists. I’d recommend them for fans of the Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens or the Lady Grace series by Grace Cavendish – or anyone looking for a fun light read.