Death of a Schoolgirl
Publisher: Penguin Group
Line: Berkley Trade
Release Date: Aug 7, 2012
Retail Price: 15.00
In her classic tale, Charlotte Brontë introduced readers to the strong-willed and intelligent Jane Eyre. Picking up where Brontë left off, Jane’s life has settled into a comfortable pattern: She and her beloved Edward Rochester are married and have an infant son. But Jane soon finds herself in the midst of new challenges and threats to those she loves…
Jane can’t help but fret when a letter arrives from Adèle Varens—Rochester’s ward, currently at boarding school—warning that the girl’s life is in jeopardy. Although it means leaving her young son and invalid husband, and despite never having been to a city of any size, Jane feels strongly compelled to go to London to ensure Adèle’s safety.
But almost from the beginning, Jane’s travels don’t go as planned—she is knocked about and robbed, and no one believes that the plain, unassuming Jane could indeed be the wife of a gentleman; even the school superintendent takes her for an errant new teacher. But most shocking to Jane is the discovery that Adèle’s schoolmate has recently passed away under very suspicious circumstances, yet no one appears overly concerned. Taking advantage of the situation, Jane decides to pose as the missing instructor—and soon uncovers several unsavory secrets, which may very well make her the killer’s next target…
For fans of: Kate Kingsbury
Life is good for Jane Eyre Rochester. Sure, Thornfield Hall is in ruins thanks to the fire that also rendered her husband, Edward Fairfax Rochester, an invalid, but she and Edward have made a nice little home for themselves in the Rochester family hunting lodge and are greatly enjoying the company of their new son, Ned. The rural location means they don’t get out much, but Edward needs time to heal, and besides, the isolation rather suits Jane.
Edward’s ward, Adèle Varens, has been away at boarding school since before the couple’s wedding, and while Jane and Edward fully intend to get to London to pay the girl a visit, they have yet to find the time. Then, however, Adèle sends the couple a letter that makes them worry their inadvertent neglect has placed her life in danger. Edward’s still in no shape to travel, but Jane doesn’t dare postpone the trip any longer, and sets out for London on her own. She suspects she’ll arrive to discover Adèle’s letter was just a ploy for attention, but unfortunately, that’s not the case; not only is school is under-staffed and run by a cruel and cold-hearted despot, but one of Adèle’s classmates was recently smothered in her sleep and the assailant is still at large. Jane’s first instinct is to simply withdraw Adèle from school and return home, but she can’t bring herself to leave the other students in harm’s way. Can Jane devise a plan that will allow her to catch the killer and depart London with a guilt-free conscience, or is she just setting herself up to become the next victim?
Death of a Schoolgirl is the first of Joanna Campbell Slan’s new Jane Eyre Chronicles. I confess, I’m not usually a fan of historical mysteries, but much to my surprise, I enjoyed the heck out of this book. The first couple of chapters are rather slow going; Slan’s initial dose of prose is stuffy and overwrought and features too many details regarding the couple’s everyday life, making it difficult to become invested in the story. Once Jane leaves for London, however, the narrative style relaxes, the pace picks up, and you start to fall under Slan’s spell.
Fear not if you’ve never read Jane Eyre – Slan kicks off her tale with a perfect highlight reel, recapping the key events of the Brontë classic without rehashing the entire book – but if you’re a fan, such knowledge will certainly heighten your appreciation of all Slan accomplishes here. Her setup is intriguing, the mystery is engrossing and complex, and Slan does a fantastic job establishing mood, tone, place, and circumstance, the end result being a truly transportive piece of fiction. Jane proves a winsome heroine, an intrepid sleuth, and an engaging narrator. Lucy Brayton and her brother Bruce make for loyal and fearless sidekicks (and provide no small measure of comic relief). And Slan does a great job bringing Adèle and her classmates to life on the page. Too often the children in mysteries are stereotypically written wastes of space, overly cutesy and two-dimensional without a defining trait or characteristic to be found; Slan, however, gives flesh to every young girl she writes, and each contributes something unique and important to the story.
If you’re searching for something a little different to round out your summer reading, look no further than Joanna Campbell Slan’s Death of a Schoolgirl; skillfully written and masterfully plotted, it’s a mystery that will keep you pinned to your seat until you’ve turned the final page.
Reviewed by Kat N.
Your ReviewYou must register before posting a comment.
Click to login
There are no comments to displayYou must register before posting a comment.
Click to login