Review: Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone

Jane Doe

Victoria Helen Stone

July 31, 2018

Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone is a chilling revenge tale about a woman leading a double life in order to take down a man with a dark past.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ve probably noticed women are angry—like really angry. Pundits and talking heads will point to November 8, 2016, as the turning point, but that’s lazy. The truth is women have always been angry. It’s always been there, bubbling below the surface. Women are taught from the cradle to the grave to not make waves or rock the boat or insert your favorite idiom here. Smile, look pretty, nod politely. What has changed? Well, women are tired of the status quo. Tired of pretending that their lives are OK and that the world around them isn’t on fire. Enter the book that women have been waiting for: Victoria Helen Stone’s psychological thriller Jane Doe.

The revenge plot is as old as time and has a storied history in what is deemed as “male entertainment.” See: Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, Daniel Craig’s James Bond story arc. Much hay will probably be made over Stone taking that most male of plot devices and putting a woman in the driver’s seat. Frankly, it’s about time. Traditionally, when women get revenge stories, the female exacting the revenge is unhinged. Hey, Glenn Close made her choice, but Michael Douglas isn’t blameless. That boiled bunny is just as much on his head!

Jane’s going by an alias while working a crummy temp job at a Minneapolis insurance company. An import/export attorney stationed in Kuala Lumpur in her real life, she’s also an unapologetic sociopath. Jane has never murdered anyone, but she doesn’t like people all that much, which is what has brought her to Minnesota. Steven Hepsworth is a middle-manager at the company where Jane is now working. In Jane’s mind, Steven has done something very, very bad and must pay.

I need him vulnerable.

I could have just gotten rid of him, of course. I could have flown into town, poisoned him, shot him, stabbed him, whatever, and been on my way, a complete stranger with no connection to the crime. The perfect murder.

But I want to hurt him in the worst way possible. Death, after all, is one moment in time. But what if I can find a way for him to live in misery for years? I need to get closer to find his weakest point, and if I have sex with him now, I’ll be trash.

Women have to worry about that kind of bullshit when they’re dating and when they’re plotting a crime. Hardly seems fair, does it?

The less said about the plot the better. Damn near everything can be construed as a spoiler. What did Steven do? In what way will Jane exact her revenge, and will she get caught?

The best part about this story might be that there isn’t an unreliable narrator in sight (and just when I was starting to think of female leads who get blackout drunk and run around half-cocked for 300+ pages as its own subgenre). This is told entirely from Jane’s point of view, and while you would think spending an entire novel inside the head of a sociopath would be bleak reading, it’s not. Jane is unapologetically Jane, and Stone inserts enough sly, gallows humor into the story to get you cackling out loud.

Readers soon learn what Steven did and why Jane is determined to make him pay, and it’s nearly impossible to tear yourself away from the story once the wheels are set in motion. Steven deserves everything that comes his way (and then some). You’d almost feel sorry for him if he wasn’t such a vile sack of human garbage.

Jane Doe is a riveting, engrossing story about a man who screws over the wrong woman, with a picture-perfect ending that’s the equivalent of a big red bow on a shiny new car. It’s that good. Ladies, we finally have the revenge story we’ve always deserved.

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