The Madwoman Upstairs

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The Madwoman Upstairs: A Novel by Catherine Lowell

Samantha Whipple hates the Brontë sisters.

As the last remaining relative, she has found herself hounded by journalists, bombarded at every turn, and told time and time again about their genius and to further study their writings.

The only item that makes Brontë bearable is that the novels give her a connection to her deceased father.

Samantha has just started at Oxford University and hopes that this will be a way to move out of the past and into a new future. However, things do not go according to plan. Her tutorial involves a very attractive, yet unattainable, professor who is intent on having her study every bit of literature she hates and criticizing everything from her thoughts, to her writing style, and even down to her use of commas.

Really?

She is also being harassed by a writer for the school newspaper, finding her name in print every day; along with her father’s arch nemesis, Sir John Booker.

And to top it off, Brontë books that were believed to be burnt in the fire of her childhood home are mysterious reappearing in her room; along with a dead friend being revived. As Samantha finds herself not only on an extensive treasure hunt to discover her inheritance, but studying and reading Brontë more than ever before; will she find all the answers she is looking for? Will she be able to understand her father’s cryptic messages? Will this cause her to grow to love the Brontë work instead of abhorring it?

Thoughts After Reading:

This has been one of the hardest reviews I have had to write as I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I enjoy the irony of the main character hating Brontë, yet at the same time reenacting the same features she complains about. For instance falling in love with her professor, James Orville; who is not only tall, broody, and arrogant; having the temperament of Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre; but also as unattainable as Mr. Rochester.

Although in this case the issue keeping them apart is not a mad wife, but the college’s code of conduct between student-teacher relationships. Or when Samantha is stranded in her room from a big storm and starts breaking down similar to the ill governess in Villette.

Hmm…

At one point in the novel, Samantha finds her journey barred by a huge storm and having to reside in the house of her father’s most hated person, Sir John; which is reminiscent of how the narrator in Wuthering Heights finds himself forced to remain with the inhospitable Heathcliff.

The character of Samantha is also very unusual. On one hand we have a very intelligent, sarcastic, logical, and thoughtful person. However, the pendulum swings back with her also being neurotic, anxious, awkward, impulsive, and fanciful.

Not that it isn’t realistic to have a character express so many traits, but for the reader it feels inconsistent, contradictory, and a bit scattered.

Samantha’s love interest Professor Orville is lacking depth within his own character, along with his relationship to Samantha being weak and having no chemistry. Professor Orville is shrouded in mystery as to his history and background; with the reader never really seeing as to who he is, but just him as the Professor or Brontë-like hero. Part of this has to do with the fact that he is a Professor and distances himself Samantha, not revealing much of his personal life, so the quick wrap up the author provides in the end when the two have married seems strange and too quickly sewn up.

After all, most of what we see in the novel between them is Samantha’s fantasies and crush on her professor, hardly anything in the novel showed that he seriously reciprocated.

On the question of the Brontë sisters the book gives quite a lot of information into their individual backgrounds and each of their novels; along with some very thought provoking analysis. Out of all the Brontës, the author spends the most time on the youngest, Anne; with a new viewpoint and direction.

However, as the book so truthfully points out, the novels we read become a part of us. The characters and stories become an active part of our reality, memories, and sometimes even family. So when a character or story is taken in a different direction than the one that you as a reader have perpetuated it can be hard to accept. There are a few ideas surrounding the Brontë‘s leading men, that depending on your own view and relationship with the books, you will find either inspired or idiotic.

The writer has a good voice and the ability to capture one’s attention and maintain it strongly through out the pages; but because I found it lacking in other areas I would have to give this book two and a half out of fives stars.

For more mysteries involving a treasure hunt, go to The Sign of the Four

For more mysteries that take place at Oxford University, go to Decked

For more mysteries that take place at a college, go to Murder at Oklahoma

For more mysteries involving a relationship with a Professor, go to Good, Clean, Murder

For more stand alone mysteries, go to Whistling in the Dark

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Decked

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Decked (Regan Reilly Mystery #1) by Carol Higgins Clark

Thoughts Before Reading:

So the first book I read in this series, Laced, I had picked up for free and thought I would try it out. I loved the characters and the buildup, but was a bit disappointed with the ending wrap up. It was just too neat for me.

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As I enjoyed Laced, I picked up another free book from the series, Iced. As I read this I felt the same way. The character and build up were good, but the end was just too neatly tied up. And the end conclusion…wait I’ll stop there. After all I am saving it for my countdown to Christmas.

to be continued

So when I checked out the book Decked from the library, I have to admit I was blown away.

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First I loved the cover with it’s Art Deco style, just beautiful; loved the characters, the build up, conclusion…I could go on, but let’s get back on track.

Read it today!

Read it today!

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Plot Synopsis:

Regan Reilly is the only daughter of Luke Reilly, wealthy mortician, and Nora Reilly, famous mystery novelist. Regan decided to embark on a career path unlike her parents, private investigating, and choosing to live on the west coast in California, rather than her home state of New Jersey.

Private Investigating!

Private Investigating!

As Carol Higgins Clark’s mother, Mary Higgins Clark, is also a writer, I have always wondered how much of the characteristics of the characters are autobiographical and how much is fiction?

suspicious Hmm

Anyways, Regan is returning to Oxford for the 10th reunion of her Junior year abroad. As she goes back to the campus it reminds her of her old roommate Athena, from Greece. Before the year ended, she came into her trust fund and ran off without saying good-bye or even writing them a note.

How rude

At the reunion Regan asks after her, but it is not just Regan who has lost contact; apparently Athena had run away from home and never contacted anyone else again.

Very suspicious

Very suspicious

Other shocking news is that Professor Phillip Whitcomb is to be married.

What?

Often sought after by the female students; Professor Whitcomb always seemed more interested in his flora and fauna, rather than females. However, to celebrate, Lady Veronica Exner, Phillip’s wealthy aunt, has invited the whole reunion over to her home, like she used to, to celebrate.

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Regan and her best friend Kit agree, as the two have always liked the eccentric woman. Now she is even more so, as she has ditched her bun for permed locks, and neutral colors for bright ones; and taking all kinds of trips. It appears she had a heart attack not long ago and has a whole new lease on life.

While the party is in full swing, they are interrupted with the news that a body was found. Athena’s.

Murder

As Regan and Kit head to bed they discover a note by Phillip Whitcomb for Regan. It urgently requests her to call.

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When she does she discovers that Lady Veronica’s traveling companion has had food poisoning. They tried to dissuade Lady Veronica from going on her cruise to New York from England, but she won’t listen saying she will be perfectly safe. Phillip’s fiancé came up with a solution of asking Regan to join her and take care of her.

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At first Regan is not willing, but then Phillip offers to pay her double. Double pay and five nights on a luxury cruise ship?

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Unfortunately, it just so happens that this cruise ship is the same one that her parents are taking a trip on. And they are trying their hardest to avoid Lady Veronica as she insists Nora is the perfect person to write her autobiography.

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As the two set off on their journey they sail right in the middle of a murder plot. The person who killed Athena wants Lady Veronica dead as well, and doesn’t care if Regan gets caught in the wake.

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As Regan is busy with Lady Veronica and all her activities she wants to try out, she always keeps a fraction of her mind on Athena’s case. Who killed her and why? Regan won’t stop until she discovers the truth.

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Thoughts After Reading:

As always, the Clark books are filled to the brim with a multitude of characters, changing narration throughout. While with some books this can be messy or too extravagant; I enjoyed every single one in this novel.

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I thought the book was very well written, and the mystery, while not a brain numbing mind bender, had quite a few well done twists.

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I enjoyed the character of Regan a lot and eagerly await to read the next book in the series.

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In fact, this is one book I wouldn’t mind adding to my collection.

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For more mysteries with a female private investigator, go to A is for Alibi

For more mysteries with private investigators, go to Grave Peril

For more mysteries involving a person who has gone missing, go to Where Are You Now?

For more reviews, go to The Book of Madness and Cures