The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling is a chilling horror. Working magic and using logic, Jane Lawrence enters into a world she was not prepared for.
All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may not reflect the quotes post-publication.
Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him.
By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man, she has so hastily bound her safety to. Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished.
“I’m a businesswoman, above all else, Dr. Lawrence.”
Caitlin Starling is a master at crafting a tale in which the words themselves are beautiful. Of course, the plot itself was fantastic. However, Starling uses creative phrasings to create a world in which you are enraptured. This is a slow build-up to insanity, and it was done incredibly well. The story keeps you on the edge, concerned for everyone’s safety, and never quite sure what’s truly happening. This felt akin to the Haunting of Hill House. However, where Hill House relied fully on atmosphere, Starling included the main character who relies solely on logic.
“She hadn’t known to ask for honesty. She hadn’t realized all she had wanted.”
Jane Lawrence is the perfect main character for this book. Her life is ruled by numbers, rules, and logic. She is not interested in the ideas of things she cannot see and cannot confirm. This is truly tested throughout the book. She must both maintain logic and let it go to understand how magic works. Her husband, and catalyst, Augustine was loveable and frustrating. He wanted to do what was best for Jane. However, he consistently was selfish in his own guilt and grief. This isn’t something that is touched on often in books, and it was unique to see it here. Jane holds him accountable for these things, which, felt important. Her slow drive into insanity and her return from it was fascinating, and her care for Augustine was beautiful.
“Death always wins, except in a world where it doesn’t.”
This is one of those books in which reviewing its contents is tricky when you do not want to spoil the story. The pacing was interesting, as it would seem to come to a peak and then lull, in a way that tricked you into feeling safe. I would like to know more about Dr. Nizamiev, and perhaps her backstory as well. Who is she, and what full hand did she have in all of this? Overall, this was a fantastic horror story that kept me on my toes and gave me the ending I wanted.
“I played at magic, and I died. I died, and I knew magic.”
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.