cover image The Death of Jane Lawrence

The Death of Jane Lawrence

Caitlin Starling. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-27258-4

Starling (The Luminous Dead) captivates and horrifies by turn in this intricately plotted, deliciously bonkers secondary world gothic fantasy. Mathematical, methodical Jane Shoringfield, not wishing to be a burden on her guardians when they move to the capital of Great Bretlain or to live in the still shell-scarred city where her parents died during a recent war, proposes a marriage of convenience to Augustine Lawrence, the only doctor in her small town of Larrenton. Lawrence agrees on one condition: Jane is never to spend the night at his ancestral home, Lindridge Hall. But when a mudslide destroys her carriage, Jane is forced to break this promise, staying overnight at Lindridge Hall and confronting the secrets that haunt her new husband. The novel spirals out into a tale of creeping terror, both psychological supernatural, before a masterful third-act twist. Those with low tolerance for gore should be warned there are multiple graphic bloodlettings and surgeries, including one while the patient is still conscious. Gothic purists may initially balk at the secondary world setting, as it’s somewhat at odds with the genre’s emphasis on how women are imprisoned by real-world patriarchal structures, but Starling’s magic system is so spookily and fully realized, and the final twist so brilliantly turns the novel on its head, that even the most skeptical will be won over. This proves impossible to put down. (Oct.)