Rachel Hawkins makes her adult thriller debut with The Wife Upstairs, a deliciously gothic contemporary retelling of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. Down-on-her-luck Jane is living with an odious young man, saving up for a place of her own and an escape from the horrors of her past, when she catches a break and is hired as a dog-walker by several people in a well-to-do neighborhood in Birmingham, Ala. Jane meets Eddie Rochester in a near-miss as he backs out of his driveway; the charismatic, handsome widower immediately sets to winning her over, even going so far as to adopt a puppy so he can hire her to walk it.
When Jane learns that not only is Eddie single but also a widower, readers discover the darker side of her desires and ambitions. "He's free, she's gone, and now I have an excuse to see him every week. An excuse to be in that gorgeous home in this gorgeous neighborhood." Their relationship develops quickly, and despite glimpses of Jane's darkness, it's easy to root for her as she describes her hardscrabble life and the ways wealthy women treat someone they view as less-than. But Jane also swipes the occasional piece of jewelry and bit of cash.
Readers familiar with Jane Eyre will be waiting to learn what happened to Eddie's first wife and, sure enough--Mrs. Rochester is alive, held captive by Eddie and narrating her side of the story in occasional chapters. The Wife Upstairs is a sure bet for anyone looking to curl up with a domestic thriller and stay up far too late. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels