A crime writer poring over Jane Austen's letters thinks she knows what killed the author at age 41: arsenic poisoning. Lindsay Ashford sees telltale hints in Austen's own words, written just months before she died, including this line: "I am considerably better now and am recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong color." Arsenic poisoning can cause such pigmentation changes—white spots and brown or black blotches—on the skin.
"After all my research I think it's highly likely she was given a medicine containing arsenic," Ashford tells the Guardian. "When you look at her list of symptoms and compare them to the list of arsenic symptoms, there is an amazing correlation." Of course, Ashford is a crime novelist, so ... "I don't think murder is out of the question." And thus we have the topic of her new novel, The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen.