By now I am sure you are aware of how much I love mysteries, and as such The Madwoman Upstairs came highly recommended. This debut novel by Catherine Lowell definitely had the obligatory mystery and suspense along with an engaging, albeit sarcastic, heroine and her brooding hero. But Lowell’s novel is actually a bit more than a simple romantic suspense. What initially interested me was the link to the Bronte sisters and their novels. With the market flooded by Jane Austen spinoffs like Pride and Predjudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy by Regina Jeffers, it was refreshing to see how the author incorporated the Brontes into her novel.
Samantha Whipple is the last living descendant of the Bronte family through her deceased father, Tristan Whipple, a novelist himself. At 19 Sam is estranged from her mother, grieving the loss of her father and feeling decidedly prickly when she arrives in London to pursue an education at Oxford University. After being ensconced in the tower at Old College, with no one to keep her company but the dreary haunted stare of ‘The Governess’, an old painting hanging on the wall in her dorm ,and the occasional public tours that wander through, Sam begins to acclimate to her new environment.
However, as she is studying literature with her professor, a stalker begins leaving packages for Sam: books belonging to her father, and believed to have been lost in the fire that killed Tristan years ago. As these famous novels are left mysteriously at Sam’s doorstep and in her room, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall serve as a starting point for her quest to discover not only who is leaving these books, and why, but also the Bronte inheritance promised to Sam by her father before he died.
Full of literary discussions and references, The Madwoman Upstairs reads like an old-fashioned Gothic romance, highlighted by Sam’s acerbic wit and the mystery lurking just beneath the surface. Ultimately this book is about the relationships we have with our family. Despite irritation, frustration and miscommunication, we never travel very far from our family and the legacy they bequeath. We carry them with us in our genes, in our memories, and in the deepest part of our soul.
The Madwoman Upstairs
2016 Simon & Schuster