Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, Jun 4 2015 01:00PM

We writers are a shameless bunch. We don’t really care why our books are being bought and read (Mandatory class assignment? Gift from clueless aunt? Choice of book club’s most annoying member? No problem!) just so long as our labors aren’t going completely ignored.


So I imagine that Lois Austen-Leigh would be perfectly happy to hear that her obscure 1931 mystery novel The Incredible Crime will soon be republished in the British Library’s “Crime Classics” series, even though it seems likely that her famous name played a role in this literary resurrection.


Even the august BL can’t be immune to the appeal of newspaper stories mentioning that the book is by “the granddaughter of Jane Austen’s nephew” (that's James Edward Austen-Leigh, author of the 1870 memoir that is the first Austen biography) and was “supposedly written on the very desk used by her illustrious ancestor.” It’s all advertising!


On the other hand, the novel by Lois Austen-Leigh, who died in 1968, sounds as if it could be a lot of fun: haunted stately home, friendly satire of Cambridge University life, and, according to its editor, “a Darcy-esque, as in rude and eventually adoring, academic love interest.” I suspect that fans of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Jane Austen will all be lining up for a copy. Somewhere, Lois is smiling.


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