Lindsay Ashford book signing at Broadhursts within Southport Flower Show 2013

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Lindsay Ashford book signing at Broadhursts within Southport Flower Show 2013

Lindsay Ashford will be at Broadhursts Book Sellers inside Southport Flower Show on Friday 16th August signing copies of her latest book ‘The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen’

Crime writer Lindsay Ashford explores the mystery surrounding the novelist’s death, through the eyes of Austen’s best friend, who lived in Liverpool. Tucked away in a drawer in the Hampshire cottage where Jane Austen lived is a glass case containing a wispy, faded lock of her hair. Like the thousands of tourists who visit the place each year, crime writer Lindsay Ashford pulled out the drawer and glanced at the tangled strands, never suspecting they could hold the key to her tragically early death at the age of just 41.

But a chance conversation with an American visitor to the village changed all that. Ashford learned that a previous owner of the hair had turned cold case detective. What he had discovered more than sixty years ago gave the ring of truth to an idea she had dismissed as preposterous when it first occurred to her: that Jane Austen was a victim of poisoning.

In the letters Austen wrote before her death she described her face as being ‘black and white and every wrong colour’. This phrase jumped out at Ashford, who had carried out extensive research into poisons for her crime novels. ‘It sounded very much like the effects of arsenic,’ Ashford says, ‘and I found myself wondering if that was the reason none of the many theories that have been put forward has ever satisfactorily explained all the symptoms she experienced.’ Ashford’s speculation led to her latest novel, The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen, which she will talk about at this year’s Southport Flower Show. The novel imagines the summer of 1805, when Jane formed a close friendship with Anne Sharp, governess to her brother’s children.

Through Anne’s eyes family secrets begin to unfold: secrets that are hinted at in surviving letters and diaries in the Austen archive. Was someone out to silence Jane before her novels revealed a shocking family secret? Anne Sharp was the person Jane Austen trusted most outside the family – especially when it came to giving an opinion about her novels. Anne rose from the lowly position of governess to set up a boarding school for girls in Liverpool.

She lived on the premises – at York Terrace in Everton – until her retirement. When she died in 1853 she was buried in a vault at Everton churchyard.  Both a puzzle and an unusual love story, The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen delves deep into the life and times of the woman whose writing has enthralled generations of readers. It will fascinate both those who love her work and those who love a mystery. The novel is currently being adapted for radio and will air on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ in February 2014. The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen is published by Honno (£8.99). It is also available as an ebook

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Lindsay Ashford is a former BBC journalist and the author of six published crime novels. Her second, Strange Blood, was shortlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. It was one of a series of novels featuring forensic psychologist Megan Rhys. Lindsay has had short stories published and broadcast and has edited collections of short fiction and prose. Her latest novel, The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen (Honno, 2011), is currently being adapted for radio and will be serialised on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ in February 2014. A historical mystery, she wrote it while living in the former home of Jane Austen’s brother. She splits her time between Hampshire and a home on the Welsh coast.   For more information please call Broadhursts on 01704 532064 Broadhursts, Market Street, Southport.   Telephone: 01704 532064 fax: 01704 542009 Email Broadhursts: [email protected] Business Website Address:

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