Tag Archives: Joanna Campbell Slan

Second chances abound in new spin-off mystery series

Tear Down and Die, by Joanna Campbell Slan. Spot On Publishing. 304 pages. Trade paperback $14.99. Kindle $4.99.

This Jupiter Island author just can’t stop. Having built a large audience for her Kiki Lowenstein mystery novels (the tenth in the series is about to appear), she recently started a series in which she brings Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre back to life. “Death of a Schoolgirl,” the first title in that series (and reviewed in this column), won the 2013 Daphne du Maurier Award for Literary Excellence. Now it’s time for Cara Mia Delgatto, spun off from the Kiki series, to have her own mystery series. The series opener is quite promising. TearDownCover

Cara, approaching early middle age, is ready for some life changes. Her parents have both recently died, and her son is entering his freshman year at the University of Miami. An empty nest adult without her mom and dad round, Cara is depressed. Having sold her home in St. Louis as well as the family restaurant she had worked in for many years, Cara is ready for a major second act in her life. Maybe Martin County on Florida’s Treasure Coast, a place she knew well when growing up, is the place to have it.

But it holds some bad memories. She’s not ready to see Dick Potter, her cantankerous grandfather who lives in Stuart; however, when her car threatens to break down on her way from St. Louis to Parent’s Weekend at her son’s college, she has no choice but to stop at Poppy’s run down gas station. It’s as if destiny were calling through the car’s threatening noises.

Joanna Campbell Slan

Joanna Campbell Slan

The meeting with her grandfather is not pleasant, but it’s at least tolerable. Cara needs a place to stay and time to sort out her feelings. She is attracted to the abandoned building that was once an attractive business – The Treasure Chest – whose owner specialized in antiques, paintings, and other items, many of which are still lying about in disrepair and disarray. When her identity is mistaken by the real estate agent, Cara impulsively signs the contract.

Soon after, literally stepping into her new venture, she finds the realtor on the floor – dead. Now we have a mystery, and Cara is an obvious suspect.

Along the way, Cara is making more friends than enemies. Skye Blue, a waitress at nearby Pumpernickel’s, offers Cara a temporary place to stay and is generous with her time and with information about Stuart. Once Cara decides to operate her own business in the building, the most valuable former employee – MJ Austin – shows up to resume her position and become another good friend.

The store and these two women, as well as Cara herself, are afforded second chances. The business itself is focused on second chances – refurbished and repurposed objects as well as new products fashioned from throw-away materials.

To read the full review, as it appears in the July 2, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 3 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Tear Down

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Jane Eyre resurrected as amateur sleuth

“Death of a Schoolgirl,” by Joanna Campbell Slan. Berkley Prime Crime. 352 pages. $15.00.

Like many novels of its time, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre was presented in the guise of autobiography, though nonetheless with attribution to one Currer Bell, Charlotte’s pen name. Joanna Campbell Slan’s bright idea is to extend the Jane Eyre autobiography, picking up Jane’s life at the point Brontë left off, soon after Jane’s marriage to Edward Rochester and the birth of their son. Death of a Schoolgirl, then, is positioned as the first in a series of mystery novels, “The Jane Eyre Chronicles,” a promising competitor in the popular field of historical mysteries. 

Though Death of a Schoolgirl moves a bit slowly at the beginning, when the author is backgrounding her characters and situation, it soon gains direction and momentum.

Choosing 1820 as the year of Jane’s first adventure, Ms. Slan launches an intriguing premise: Adèle Varens, a ten year old French girl who is Rochester’s ward, writes from her expensive boarding school that she is very unhappy and feels threatened. Jane and Rochester, who is striving to recovery from a severe vision handicap, decide that Jane should leave for London prepared to investigate the child’s situation.  Along the way, she is attacked and robbed of precious gems, and when she arrives at the school she is at first mistaken for the expected new German teacher.

The students and staff are extremely agitated because one of the girls is most likely the victim of murder. Jane decides to stay on – if she can – in part to protect Adèle, but more and more to investigate the death of Selina, Adèle’s classmate. She is now Jane Eyre, amateur sleuth.

Joanna Campbell Slan

Unexpectedly, Jane encounters an old friend, Nan Miller, who is teaching at the school. Though Nan learns that Jane is now Mrs. Rochester, she helps Jane keep this a secret. The school would not hire a married woman to be on its teaching staff, and Edward Rochester’s horrible reputation has prejudiced the school’s director against his ward. When director Thurston discovers that Jane is not the expected German teacher, Nan helps smooth things over, vouching for Jane’s character and credentials in a way that leads Thurston to give Jane a temporary position.

From here on, the plot introduces frightening events and revelations, as well as a large cast of intriguing characters. Several of the girls have wounds on their backs from severe canings. Laudanum is being overused to control behavior and perhaps worse.  Selina had treated the other students so horribly that they could be considered suspects. Thurston allowed her to get away with vile behavior, and the teachers were not permitted to reprimand her. This factor becomes a mystery within the mystery. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the August 23, 2012 Naples Florida Weekly, and also the August 30 Spacecoast edition and the Septermber 6 Palm Beach Gardens edition , click here: Florida Weekly – Joanna Campbell Slan


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