The Death of Jane Lawrence
St. Martin’s Press (October 5, 2021)
Reviewed by Ray Palen
Bram Stoker Award-nominated author Caitlin Starling is back with a work of Gothic Horror that will provide well-earned chills from those who dive into her latest effort—THE DEATH OF JANE LAWRENCE. It begins with the then-named Jane Shoringfield eyeing Dr. Augustine Lawrence, cuffs covered with blood, and knowing this was the man she intended to marry.
Jane approaches Dr. Lawrence about helping as a bookkeeper for him, even when he tries to warn her about a doctor’s life, which is often filled with blood. The two would eventually marry, as the title of the novel suggests. A wedding-night accident will strand Jane in their home, and this is the point where the demeanor of the reclusive doctor changes. He begins to look at Jane differently, almost as if she is an apparition instead of his wife. Jane would normally have been wary of such behavior had she not experienced a moment where she saw her reflection in a mirror and swore her eyes were purely red.
Dr. Lawrence warns Jane about going into the cellar and that there were tunnels beneath there which could easily collapse. Jane becomes increasingly suspicious of her husband and learns of his previous wife who supposedly died of yellow fever. She begs of a doctor who was an expert in madness to tell her the truth about her husband and of the magic that she believes he is involved with. This physician, Dr. Nizamiev, tells her that ghosts did indeed exist and that what her husband was involved with might be worse than bringing people back from the dead.
Upon being confronted, Dr. Lawrence admits to conjuring the dead, including holding the heart of his previous wife in his hands as part of the ritual. Jane may find out that magic is real, but she may also find out the truth about herself—something for which she is not prepared. THE DEATH OF JANE LAWRENCE harkens back to old-style horror when belief in things like magic and folklore was commonplace and that somehow makes it even more horrific.