I realized that I’ve been reading a few books lately with the word “secret” in the title. First it was The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, and now it’s The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte, by Laura Joh Rowland.
Rowland, author of a series of detective novels that take place in Japan (which I haven’t read), now conquers new territory in turning Charlotte Bronte into a detective. What could have turned into a disaster is actually a delightful mystery. The story begins when Charlotte and her sisters receive a letter from Charlotte’s publisher, in which the publisher believes that the same man wrote Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey. Charlotte and Anne go to London to clear things up. On their way there, they run into a woman name Isabel White, whose strange behavior leads to Charlotte witnessing her murder in a London alley later. When the police decide that the former governess’s murder was a chance happening, Charlotte realizes that it wasn’t, and she sets off in pursuit of the real murderer, prompted by an account written by Isabel in the margins of a book. We are introduced to John Slade, who Charlotte finds herself attracted to. But is he one of the good guys, or the bad?
Charlotte’s adventures lead her across Europe, from London to the English countryside, to Scotland and beyond, eventually engulfing her in the opium wars of the 1840s. Charlotte comes across as an adventurous and brave woman, resourceful and intelligent. She’s also very passionate, and devoted to her cause. I was enthralled by the mystery, which unfolded perfectly, and did not want this book to end. It’s a must read for anyone who enjoys the works of the Bronte sisters, and the book made me want to re-read Jane Eyre.