The Death of a Dowager is the second in the series that features classic heroine Jane Eyre as a sleuth working to solve a mysterious death. In the first novel, Death of a Schoolgirl, she solved the murder of a teenage girl at a private girls’ school in London. In this follow-up novel, Jane must also uncover the truth behind a suspicious death.
While their country home of Ferndean is undergoing repairs, Jane, Rochester and their son Ned head to London to stay with their friend Lucy Brayton. Rochester wants to take the opportunity while they’re in the city to meet with an oculist who may help with his eyesight, in addition to introducing Jane to the opera.
During intermission at the opera, Lucy, Jane and Rochester encounter the Ingrams: the dowager, Blanche and Mary. Still resentful over Jane and Rochester’s marriage—since she was hoping her daughter would make a match with Rochester—the dowager snubs them and Lucy publicly. Jane fears that this incident will ruin Lucy’s standing in society.
The next day, Lucy and Jane pay a visit to one of Lucy’s friends, who is hosting the Ingrams, in an attempt to make amends. While they are having tea, the Dowager Lady Ingram suddenly drops stone dead. It is soon apparent that her death was not by natural causes.
The Ingram daughters are quick to point fingers without any actual proof. Eventually, Blanche sets her sights on Lucy as the one to blame. Jane finds herself in the position of having to determine who is actually responsible for the dowager’s death in order to protect her friend.
Adding to the story is a subplot involving a letter from the King of England that Jane found in Death of a Schoolgirl. It’s a letter that the king would rather never see the light of day, but his mistress would very much like to have it. Since she is in possession of the letter, Jane finds herself caught up in some drama with the king and his circle of intimates—an interesting break from the main action of the novel.
I would recommend reading the first book in the series before reading The Death of a Dowager. This novel references events that took place in the previous book, and it’s especially important in understanding the subplot with the king’s letter.
As a fan of the classics and historical mysteries, I enjoy the idea of Jane Eyre as a sleuth. The characters and world depicted in Slan’s novels stay true to Brontë’s story, and it’s nice to see the love story between Jane and Rochester continue.