by Joanna Campbell Slan
Plot Summary:In her classic tale, Charlotte Brontë introduced readers to the strong-willed and intelligent Jane Eyre. Picking up where Brontë left off, the year is now 1820, and Jane’s life has finally settled into a comfortable pattern. She and her beloved Edward Rochester have married and have a son. But Jane soon finds herself having to protect those she loves…
When the roof caves in at Ferndean, their country home, Jane and Edward accept an invitation from their friend Lucy Brayton to stay with her in London while repairs are being made. Jane is reluctant to abandon their peaceful life in the countryside, but Edward’s damaged vision has grown worse. She hopes that time in the capital will buoy his spirits and give him the chance to receive treatment from a renowned oculist.
Once in London, the Rochesters accompany Lucy to the Italian Opera House, where they encounter Dowager Lady Ingram, who had once hoped for Edward to wed her daughter, Blanche—and who’s still rankled by his subsequent marriage to Jane. In front of a group of society people, the aging dowager delivers a vicious social drubbing to Jane, enraging both Edward and Lucy. In an attempt to rebuild good will, Jane and Lucy decide to speak to the Dowager in private the next day. But the visit is cut short when the Dowager drops dead before their shocked eyes. Lucy is poised to take the blame—unless Jane can clear her friend’s name…
Review:Having read and loved the first book in this series, "Death of a Schoolgirl", last year, I was so eager to read this new installment of Jane Eyre as a detective. As with the first book, the author does an excellent job capturing Jane Eyre's voice, and the tenor of her marriage to Mr. Rochester. We get to see more of Jane's friend Lucy Brayton in this story - a wonderful character introduced in the first book and a perfect foil to Jane's plain thinking and societal naivete. I was impressed to find that this book has two plots - one that is the murder mystery, and the other one of political intrigue that is set up in the first book. These two plots worked together very well to maintain tension in a novel that does sometimes move at a leisurely pace.
The mystery was very well set up, and all the clues were clearly delineated - unfortunately so much so that I found it pretty easy to figure out who the culprit was. I was a bit disappointed in this, and in Jane's ultimate plan to reveal the murderer because it felt a little anticlimactic. I thought the author did a great job creating a believable and intricate murder mystery but perhaps there were too few red herrings to throw me off from whom I suspected. The center of the mystery is the Ingrams and their cattiness was a fun element of the story, especially because it was taken to such extremes. If you are not a fan of them from the original novel, be prepared to enjoy what happens in this book!
The political intrigue with King George IV was integrated into the story very well, and created more tension in my opinion then the straightforward murder mystery. The author adds a lot of historical detail to ground the action and make the story very realistic. And the story also addresses some interesting social issues that can be applicable to modern times. As with the first book, this novel uses very rich and distinct storytelling to realistically recreate Jane's world - the wonderful thing about this series is how believable it is as a continuation of Jane's story - because of the attention to detail and the author's ability to write Charlotte Brontë's characters in a compelling, vivid way. This was another enjoyable read, and I only wish there were more scenes with Mr. Rochester!
a review copy was kindly provided by the publisher, Berkeley Trade
"Death of a Dowager" is released today!