Jane ​Austen is enjoying a summer visit to Derbyshire’s craggy peaks, sparkling streams, and cavernous gorges. But there, amid scenes of unsurpassed beauty, she stumbles upon the ugliest slaughter she has ever seen. High in the rocks near the town of Bakewell lies the body of a young gentleman. With blond curls and delicate features, the victim has the face of an angel – yet Jane can see that he had been shot in the forehead and savagely mutilated." “But even more shocking is the revelation gleaned from the surgeon’s examination: the deceased is in fact a woman – a maidservant clad in the garb of her master, Mr. Charles Danforth of Penfolds Hall. Tess Arnold had been in charge of the stillroom at Penfolds for many years and was known as an adept preserver of produce and compounder of home remedies – until, it seems, she was dismissed for a scandalous indiscretion.” “Was Tess, Jane wonders, the gory prey of a madman loose in the hills? Or was she, perchance, the cast-off impediment to a young nobleman’s marriage? Is there any merit to the claims of the ranting blacksmith, who speculates that Tess fell victim to a ritual execution – the dark side of the secret brotherhood of the Freemasons?” "A fortuitous encounter with Lord Harold Trowbridge, Jane’s Gentleman Rogue, affords her ample opportunity to study local gentry. She soon learns that the two Danforth brothers of Penfold Hall could not be more dissimilar: Andrew, jovial and ambitious, Charles, lame and taciturn, given to midnight rambles and haunted by the successive deaths of his wife and four children. The common folk whisper that he is cursed – or worse. Through it all, Jane’s genius for observation, interrogation, andartifice places her routinely at risk – and just out of sight lurks a killer from whom little can protect her.

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