Book Review: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
With a lead-in like that, I had high expectations. That and this is Lyndsay Faye we’re talking about, the creator of the marvelous Timothy Wilde series, and the one who finally gave us a gripping account of Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper that frankly is better than anything Conan Doyle would have come up with.
Jane Steele is a fun, action-filled homage to the Gothic triple deckers of the Victorian age. It has the classic tropes: Girl orphaned young, named Jane, abused by the wealthier kinfolk she lives with, sent away to horror-show school and becomes governess … I go into books labeled ‘reimaginings’ with gun-shy wariness. Like satire, it can be a fine line between brilliant and obnoxious, too cute or cloying. Steele is not a satire of the genre, but it is sly and winking, more like a quiet unspoken joke between old friends. Jane Steele is even published as a triple decker — thankfully under one cover. It’s action-filled and just tons of fun with some great characters I deeply hope to see again.
Steele, is also unflinching from the ugliness in ugly people, and hardships of the time. Some of that ugliness is only hinted at in those classic Gothic novels we love, but here if someone is a sexual predator, it’s said/shown.
Anyone shying away from the ‘serial killer’ tag — I think it’s not used well here. Jane Steele isn’t a serial killer. More like a vigilante, or frankly just someone who lives in hard place during a hard time. The violence is largely unflinching, but far from Tarantino-esque. This isn’t a cozy knitting mystery, but I think the majority of readers won’t be put off by the violence.
Faye’s descriptions are gold, building tension then giving readers that pinching little twist of anticipation making payoffs that much sweeter. Book to book, she just gets better and better.