This mystery, as with all the mysteries by Stephanie Barron featuring Jane Austen as the detective and cultural commentator, is just excellent. Turns out the Barque of Frailty is an Edwardian code for mistress, perhaps call girl, way higher on the social scale than a prostitute.
And Jane, in this book, actually develops a friendship with one of the leading such women of her day, and is kind and reciprocal, in the heavy and all-in-code way of conversations at that time. It is interesting – and not surprising – that there were entire salons of these women, attended by men of the nobility and upper classes, to drink and flirt and make their choices. While the culture itself twisted itself into pretzels to pretend no such thing was happening.
And, of course, it turns out that one of the guys who pretended to be entirely above it all – not like those other men over there – was likely the killer, though the question was not quite concluded by the end of the book. Jane, as is usual in these mysteries, is seen as an older spinster (in her late 20s) by many other characters, with the few, the discerning, recognizing her true worth.
And I recognize that paragraph as carrying the same tone as the book, and nearly written in Edwardian code. I fear I have been infected with the Jane virus.