Book reviews and random ramblings about literary and historical matters.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
What I've Read This Week
What I've Read This Week . . .
Louisa and the Missing Heiress (Louisa May Alcott Mysteries 1) by Anna McLean -- Historical Mystery
In 1854 Louisa May Alcott is just another poor wannabe writer. By day she teaches school but by night she sits in the attic and writes "blood and thunder" tales hoping to become published. When her old friend Dorothy returns home from a honeymoon in Europe, Louisa is anxious to see her friend. When Dorothy turns up to her tea party late and distracted, Louisa becomes worried about her friend and promises to come have a private chat with Dorothy. Then Dorothy turns dead up in the river and appears to have been murdered. Louisa can not rest until she solves the mystery for her friend. Going off alone to investigate, only sometimes by accompanies by her friend Sylvia, Louisa's search for answers takes her to the wharves, a home for unwed mothers and to one of the best homes on Beacon Hill before she puts together the clues and solves the mystery. I expected the mystery to be a real life version of one of Louisa's blood and thunder tales but fortunately it was not. It isn't a "cozy" mystery either. The mystery gripped me until the very end even though I figured it all out long before Louisa did. The clues were there, Louisa just had to put them together. While I know a lot about Louisa, I'm not certain this portrait of her as a sleuth is accurate to her personality but certainly she was very energetic and clever and I suppose she could have solved mysteries if she wanted to. I'm not sure she would be instructing unwed mothers how not to be in that position in the future (I think that task would have been left to her mother or another married woman) or attending a birth. Those were the only major problems that stuck out for me. There are also some parts of the mystery that stretch credibility but I suppose it could happen. If you are interested in the seamy side of Victorian Boston, this novel is for you. The details are amazing and I really felt like I was right there in 1850s Boston instead of near 21st century Boston. The book also did a good job of describing life in the Alcott household with a vegetarian philosopher father absentminded and barely aware of what is going on and a loving, patient mother struggling to care for her children. I would recommend this series to fans of Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen Mysteries, Kate Ross's Julian Kestral mysteries and Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily mysteries. If you're curious to know more about Louisa and what could have been, this book is for you too. I think I liked it well enough to read the second book in the series from the library but possibly not enough to buy the third book.