When I read the summary of The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling it piqued my interest, but I was a little hesitant to pick up this genre again after my experience with Mexican Gothic. I am glad I did because this book packs more punch. But, I am starting to think that gothic horror might not be my genre. I found Jane Lawrence to be entertaining, but I’m reading to find the solution rather than enjoying the adventure along the way. It feels like I’m stuck sitting on the surface when all I want is to get pulled under. My own personal feelings aside, the story itself is unique and can satisfy any craving for gothic ghoulies.
Jane Shoringfield has managed to carve out an independent and fulfilling life with her foster family. With a knack for numbers, Jane becomes a self-taught accountant and finds joy in managing the family’s accounts. But when her family wants to move to the city, Jane refuses to go back to the war-torn area that took her parents. As a young, unmarried woman, she cannot remain by herself, so Jane decides to quickly arrange a business deal, er, marriage. After careful consideration, Jane asks the town’s new doctor, Augustine Lawrence, to marry her for society’s sake and allow her to manage his practice. The young doctor is reluctant to take a wife but eventually agrees after laying down a few rules of his own, including one that forbids Jane from visiting his country manor, Lindridge Hall. However awkward their arrangement is, the two find themselves magnetized by each other’s presence and the strict rules quickly fall to the wayside. Jane eventually finds herself at the forbidden manor, only to discover she truly knows nothing about the man she married.
The pacing in Jane Lawrence is phenomenal. Starling knows how to keep the reader engaged. Truly, the momentum does not stop building for over 300 pages. All the fat was trimmed from this story, and there are no lulls or side quests to pull one off track. I especially appreciate the quick and efficient setup at the beginning. Starling wastes no time getting the plot rolling and introduces the oddities early and often so you’re pulled in fast. She did a great job establishing the world and characters quickly so you could get right to creepy stuff with little effort. My reading has felt really sluggish lately, but here I was compelled to read, even if it was only to find answers to my many questions.
Jane values logic and enjoys the structure of mathematics. Ghosts and magic tend to shatter that sense of order which makes Jane such a great character to go on this adventure with. As the strange, unknowable things make themselves known, Jane finds a way to adapt to the situation by interpreting events through her own lens. I appreciated that she is still shocked by the new reality she is facing but also doesn’t regress into a damsel in distress. Her determination is refreshing and while she might run at first, Jane didn’t hesitate to go in for the attack once she assessed the danger.
Okay, semi spoilers for this paragraph. The first 80% of the book is pure gothic glory. Old, decrepit manor, strange but handsome young bachelor, ghosties, fever dreams. The book does a great job distracting you with all the gothic tropes…at first. In the final portion, Starling pulled the dusty rug out from under me and the impact had me dazed and confused. The ending got weird. I don’t even fully comprehend what happened, but it was so unexpected and exciting that it easily brought my rating for this book up a notch. I’m simultaneously disappointed and entranced by the storytelling. I wish the elements in the last portion were more prevalent throughout, but also understand the ending was made that much more jarring by being fed the typical dark fare for the majority of the book.
Here’s another spooktacular book to get you ready for the best time of year. The Death of Jane Lawrence is classically refreshing and entirely unique with enough haunts to chase you through the fall. I highly recommend this one, even if somewhat selfishly because I would love to discuss and unpack that ending with someone.
Rating: The Death of Jane Lawrence – 8.0/10
An ARC of this book was provided to us in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.