I was so disappointed in P.D. James' Death Comes to Pemberley, her mystery and followup to Pride and Prejudice. Tuesday is release date for Joanna Campbell Slan's Death of a Schoolgirl. It's the first in a new series, The Jane Eyre Chronicles. It's been years since I read Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. However, I don't think anyone is going to be disappointed in this wonderful mystery. Slan beautifully captures the characters and the atmosphere, the tone of Jane Eyre.
It's 1820. Jane is happily married to Edward Rochester. Although he was badly injured when Thornfield Hall was destroyed, the couple is enjoying life with their infant son, Ned. Jane's biggest worry is Edward's eyesight, until a disturbing letter arrives from Adèle Varens. Jane was hired as governess for the young girl, Edward's ward. When Jane fled, Edward put Adèle in school at Alderton House School for Girls in London, thinking she would benefit from a traditional English education. But, the letter lacks the young girl's liveliness, and there is a note written in French begging for help.
Edward's health precludes him from leaving for London immediately, so Jane sets out to find out what is wrong. Before she can even get to London, though, Jane is accosted and robbed. Since she fought back, she doesn't look like the wife of a wealthy squire when she arrives. It's easy for the new superintendent at the school to assume Jane is the new teacher. And, once Jane realizes one of Adèle's roommates was murdered, she takes over that teaching position to protect the girls while looking for answers. What is going on at Alderton?
Jane Eyre as an amateur sleuth? It actually makes perfect sense, and it works well in this book. She describes herself as appearing as an unassuming small woman. But, she has a curious and analytical mind, and a talent for observation. She knows what it's like to be without resources, so she's capable of fending for herself. And, once she meets up with Rochester's friend, Mrs. Lucy Brayton, and Lucy's brother, Bruce Douglas, she has powerful allies for her plan. Douglas is a private inquiry agent, and he works closely with Jane. Jane's background, connections, and personality make her a perfect amateur sleuth.
Slan has a fascinating time period to cover. The Bow Street Runners were investigating crime, and Douglas is a private investigator. George IV is on the throne, and there's a great deal of controversy surrounding his life. All of these elements add interest to the story.
However, in the long run, Death of a Schoolgirl is the story of Jane Eyre as a sleuth. I wasn't disappointed. Jane Eyre succeeds, and Joanna Campbell Slan succeeds in writing a compelling, fascinating mystery.
Joanna Slan's website is www.joannaslan.com
Death of a Schoolgirl by Joanna Campbell Slan. Berkley Prime Crime. 2012. ISBN 9780425247747 (paperback), 339p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The author had a copy of the book sent to me, hoping I would review it.