REVIEW: “The Death of Jane Lawrence” by Caitlin Starling

Reviewed by Logan Noble.

Pre-order/purchase The Death of Jane Lawrence here.

The Gothic genre has been around for a long time. Horace Walpole published The Castle of Otranto in 1764. Even then, we can see the inklings of the genre as we know it now. A castle haunted by the supernatural, rampant romanticism, and a horrific undercurrent beneath it all. It finds an immediate connection to class and violence, of death and the men (usually) that seek to control it. It is a cob-webbed Rosetta Stone and works within the genre that have come after generally follow its sinister guidance. Still, truly great Gothic works find ways to bend and break the familiar. They dust off the tropes so that they may see the cold light of the morning.

The Death of Jane Lawrence is a perfect example of the Gothic done well. It centers on Jane Shoringfield, a logical woman who is trying to find a way to keep her independence. She wishes to find a husband who will see marriage in the same way that she does; a business arrangement, a means to a happy end. Jane is a fascinating character. She is fully featured and cast wonderfully by Caitlin Starling’s purposeful prose. Her anxieties feel relatable, even though this novel is set in post-war England. Jane is rarely a passive character, which is a refreshing take from so many stories within this vein. 

After much research, Jane thinks she may have found the perfect match in Augustine Lawrence. Augustine serves as her town’s doctor. He is work obsessed and brooding, reluctant to accept Jane’s offer. The good doctor spends his nights at a crumbling manor (!) outside city limits. The two characters bond quickly, and it doesn’t take long for fate to push Jane through the manor’s doorway and for the true terror to begin. If that all sounds familiar, have no worries. Augustine and the manor both have plenty of secrets to share, and I found myself astonished at the ingenuity of Caitlin’s plot.

Though it is rightfully advertised as a Romantic Gothic, The Death of Jane Lawrence has its terrifying moments. The apparitions are woven from the past and provide multiple set pieces that readers may not ever forget. I was entranced by Starling’s ability to meld gore and manners throughout. The horror within these pages hits hard, but never loses sight of the story or the characters.

This is a glorious new horror novel, written by the supremely talented Caitlin Starling. Caitlin’s book features these tropes, but she has found new ways to express them. In a genre that dates back 257 years, (visit Otranto’s castle on your next holiday!) creative execution is vital. If you’re looking for a modern feeling horror novel in a Gothic wrapping, this is the perfect book.

Pre-order/purchase The Death of Jane Lawrence here.

A digital copy of The Death of Jane Lawrence was provided for a honest review by Macmillan Publishing.

Reviewed by Logan Noble.

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