The Death of Jane Lawrence, by Caitlin Starling (2021)
First 3/4 of the book - 5 stars. The final 1/4 of the book lost its way. But I'm still giving it a solid 3 because it was a lot of fun!
Starling was definitely influenced by Shirley Jackson, in all the best ways possible... a real gothic horror story, complete with an old & crumbling mansion, creepy hauntings, questionable reality, and unreliable characters/narrator.
Jane lost her parents when she was quite young, and has spent her life into her 20s living with the Cunninghams, a wealthy couple who care for her like she's their own daughter. But when Mr Cunningham accepts a new job in another town - the town where Jane was a child and lost her parents - she decides she must find a suitable husband to release them of the burden, and to avoid the unpleasant memories of her childhood. Jane is not interested in a romance, and so chooses Augustine Lawrence, the town doctor, as he seems sensible, independent, and private enough to suit her needs.
It is a marriage of convenience, and though Augustine is at first resistant, Jane convinces him that it will be a beneficial "business arrangement" for them both. The only condition Augustine places on the marriage is that Jane must never visit his family home, called Lindridge, outside of the city. She will live at the office in town, and he will work there during the days, but spend his evenings at the house.
When, on their wedding night, a miscommunication leads them to Lindridge in their carriage, Jane has no choice but to stay the night there. Now within those walls, horrors begin to make themselves known, and a marriage she thought of as straight forward begins to complicate, as she realizes how much her new husband has lied to her about his circumstances. There's magic and ghosts and creepy things that go bump in the night! And Jane must work against time to unravel the mysteries of the house in order to save her life and that of her husband.
The ending was a bit of a let-down for me as it got overly detailed and complicated, and then somehow kind of just worked out with a happy ending that didn't seem totally justified. But, as I said, I really did enjoy the ride, so I still recommend it.
UP NEXT: Re-reading The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern