Love draws the Victorian novelist into another breathtaking adventure.
The surprising success of Jane Eyre has thrust Charlotte Brontë into the glare of the public spotlight, but this is a mixed blessing. Her sisters Anne and Emily have recently died after living through the commercial failures of their fiction, and Charlotte has left behind the love of her life, British spy John Slade, whom she met during an implausible escapade in Moscow. Renowned author and social lion William Makepeace Thackeray, who’s taken Charlotte under his wing, shepherds her meeting with London’s literati. Then an opportunity to visit the infamous mental institution Bedlam takes a dark turn. One inmate bears an unsettling resemblance to Anne; another, Charlotte is sure, is her beloved John, though asylum officials identify him as Polish refugee Josef Typinski. When Typinski escapes from Bedlam in the confusion following a murder of which he now stands accused, Charlotte knows what she must do. Chapters from John Slade’s prior adventure alternate with dispatches from Charlotte’s colorful investigation, which includes meeting the Queen and Prince Albert, a brief stay in prison and an incognito encounter with fans of her new novel, Shirley.
The audacity of building a mystery caper around this unlikely heroine is part of the novel’s considerable charm. Elegant stylist Rowland’s prose remains as pitch-perfect as in Secret Adventures of Charlotte Brontë (2008), in what should be another long-running series from the author of the Sano Ichiro mysteries.