Death of a Dowager
by Joanna Campbell Slan

Berkley Prime Crime New York, 2013. ISBN 978-0-425-25351-9.
Reviewed by Penny Appleby
Posted on 06/01/2013

Fiction: Mystery

Death of a Dowager, the second novel in The Jane Eyre Chronicles, draws us back again into the lives of Jane and Edward Rochester. Slan once more demonstrates her comfort with the milieu and characters created by Charlotte Bronte. This novel also hints at that later sleuth, Miss Marple, Agatha Christie's creation. Like Miss Marple, Jane demonstrates her ability to pay attention to what is going on around her and to solve crimes through understanding the players involved. Her demeanor and social standing serve her in the same way that Miss Marple's age and unassuming manner did her—most people underestimate her.

Circumstances at Ferndean, the Rochesters' country home, require that they stay with their friend, Lucy Brayton, in London. Though Jane does not like to be away from the country, she is willing to spend this time in the city so that Edward, who is going blind, can see an ocular specialist with the hopes of improving his sight. Because of Lucy's social position, Jane finds herself in an unfamiliar world—one not always to her liking. At a visit to the opera, Jane is snubbed by her old nemesis, Lady Ingram, who wanted her daughter, Blanche, to marry Edward. Lucy, hoping to mend fences, insists that Jane accompany her on a visit to the Dowager. It is during this visit, while tea is being served, that the Dowager suddenly drops dead. Circumstances surrounding the sudden death indicate that foul play was involved.

As in Death of a Schoolgirl, Jane is drawn into a mystery because of her connection to the people involved. Before she is able to get to the solution of the Dowager's death, she must confront an intriguing situation with King George IV just before his coronation.

Slan has crafted a very enjoyable read, weaving both the fictional history of Charlotte Bronte with the actual history of King George IV. Her ability to pull you into Jane's story and the time period is very compelling, and we can hope that we have not read the last of Jane's Chronicles.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Joanna Campbell Slan is the Agatha Award-nominated author of more than twenty books. She grew up in a small town in Indiana, where she read and reread her two favorite books, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Jane Eyre. After traveling the world and living in England, she now lives on Jupiter Island, Florida. Visit her website.

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