Thursday, April 29, 2010

Laura Joh Rowland Continues the Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte in BEDLAM

Laura Joh Rowland's new Charlotte Bronte mystery, Bedlam: The Further Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte, is already drawing excellent review attention:

"Jane Eyre’s alter ego returns when Charlotte Brontë again finds herself embroiled in a treacherous escapade that transports her from the squalid slums of Whitechapel to Queen Victoria’s regal summer estate. While visiting her publisher in London, Charlotte hopes to find the inspiration for her next novel during a visit to the notorious Bedlam Psychiatric Hospital. Instead, she recognizes one of the inmates as John Slade, her secret-agent lover whom she believed was on a mission to Russia—or dead. When Charlotte’s efforts to free Slade put her directly in the center of an international plot to stop a terrorist from launching a lethal biological weapon, the intrepid author herself is accused of heinous murders and becomes the subject of a police manhunt. Rowland’s literary heroine demonstrates all the cunning, guile, and daredevil skills of a modern-day Bond girl while retaining the essence of Victorian morality. Sharply relevant, Rowland’s inventive action-thriller delivers enough intrigue and romance to satisfy a wide array of readers."— Booklist

"Love draws the Victorian novelist into another breathtaking adventure. The surprising success of Jane Eyre has thrust Charlotte Bronte 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 Bronte (2008), in what should be another long-running series from the author of the Sano Ichiro mysteries." - Kirkus Reviews

"Set in 1851, three years after the events in The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Brontë, Rowland's fast-paced second Charlotte Brontë adventure continues to transform the shy author of Jane Eyre into an action heroine. Still pining for John Slade, the rugged spy from the first book whose marriage proposal she refused, Charlotte is stunned to come across John under restraints in Bedlam, the notorious London hospital for the insane. The last she knew John was in Russia on a secret mission. When Charlotte learns the police suspect that John is the Whitechapel Ripper, who's killed and mutilated three prostitutes, she sets out to prove him innocent, despite John's spymaster telling her that he betrayed Britain in Russia. The less than imaginative use of an ur–Jack the Ripper may disappoint those expecting the depth and sophistication of the author's series set in medieval Japan (The Cloud Pavilion, etc.). This historical thriller will likely appeal more to romance fans than Brontë enthusiasts. - Publishers Weekly

"Charlotte Bronte wants to mourn the deaths of her sisters Anne and Emily, but Jane Eyre will not allow her to. She feels survival guilt as her two novelist siblings never saw their writings make it though now thanks in part to her tale Jane Eyre, she and her late siblings are the talk of the nation. Charlotte has also ended her relationship with her beloved John Slade, whom she met during her Moscow adventure last year (see Secret Adventures Of Charlotte Bronte). Famous author William Makepeace Thackeray has mentored Charlotte and helps her deal with sudden fame and entrance to the literary lions of London. She is escorted on a tour of Bedlam Psychiatric Hospital, but one inmate looks like Anne’s twin and worse another has to be John. She challenges the officials re the latter’s identification and told he is Polish expatriate Josef Typinski, who escaped when a murder causes chaos. The authorities accuse Josef of the homicide while Charlotte gets involved. Rotating perspective between Charlotte’s journal and Slade’s escapades, readers will fully believe the last Bronte sister’s adventures this time in England. The story line is fast-paced, filled with action and feels plausible even with Charlotte turning into an amateur sleuth of sorts. As with the previous Charlotte Bronte’s secret adventures (in Moscow), fans of Victorian thrillers will be thrilled reading about the heroine’s bedlam escapades." - World of Romance

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