Death of a Schoolgirl (The Jane Eyre Chronicles)

Written by Joanna Campbell Slan
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In 1820, Jane and Edward Rochester are living happily in Yorkshire. Two alarming notes arrive from their ward, Adèle, attending a boarding school in London. One is a coded message, in French, for help, and the second a death threat. They immediately decide to visit London. However, their doctor forbids Edward to travel, for medical reasons, and finally Jane journeys alone to London and stays with a family friend, Lucy.

Jane arrives at the boarding school and is horrified to see a dead body being carted out. Jane is mistaken for the new German teacher. The head teacher, Miss Miller, informs her that the dead girl was Adèle’s roommate. Jane is surprised to find Adèle sleeping, having been given a dose of laudanum to calm her hysteria. When the Bow Street Runners start an investigation, Lucy and her brother — an inquiry agent — believe a killer is on the prowl. Being short staffed, Miss Miller convinces Jane to stay on as the German teacher to protect the other students. Jane decides to accept the position as well as play amateur sleuth to unearth the murderer and thus protect Adèle, despite putting herself at risk. From here on the novel takes the form of an entertaining murder mystery that has us guessing up to the end.

While Slan is an accomplished author with over a dozen books and a mystery series to her credit, it is surprising that she chose to base this novel as a sequel to Jane Eyre, especially since this well written story can stand on its own. There is no need to have read Jane Eyre first. Although the start of the novel is indeed in Charlotte Brontë’s flowery style, it subsequently smooths out to a narrative more suitable for a murder mystery. Recommended.