What I Read in May 2016 Part VI . . .Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone: The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival by Dene Low
Petronella Arbuthnot has been looking forward to her 16th birthday party forever. She hopes her bosom friend Jane's brother James will finally notice her as a woman and not as another little sister. Unfortunately for Petronella, her birthday gets off to a bad start when her uncle and guardian Uncle Augustus T. Percival accidentally swallows an insect and develops a passion for eating bugs! Then two uninvited guests show up to the party, an actress known as Dame Carruthers and Panamanian Generalissimo Alejandro Reyes-Cardoza. When Dame Carruthers and the Generalissimo go missing and Petronella's annoying relatives turn up, she has her hands full trying to follow the clues and solve the mystery, avoid making her uncle's predilection for bugs known to her aunts who would love to claim Petronella's fortune for her own. Luckily she has James by her side and he has the ear of the Home Office. Will they solve the mystery before it becomes an international incident?
This is a cute, light mystery that kept me entertained. I stayed up later than I intended to finish it because I had to know how Petronella saved nearly everyone. The Edwardian language sounded rather forced "Old thing" and all that but the history that was incorporated into the story was interesting. There's also quite a bit of science involved to teach readers about insects and even anthropology! Of course it's all a bit preposterous but that's the charm of the story.
Petronella is a fun girl. She's a mix of Edwardian and modern spunk. She represents the New Woman of the time who was fearless and free. She also fits in with the Edwardian setting because she does care about proprieties a lot and she wants James to notice her as a woman. She's not afraid to giggle or throw herself into a difficult situation. Uncle Augustus is quite charming in his own way. His affliction makes him a bit eccentric but it also makes him endearing. By the end of the book I felt exactly as Petronella and her friends did.
Petronella's other relatives are of course not as charming. They're taken from the book of stereotypical Victorian/Edwardian characters. They would be right at home in a Roald Dahl novel or a P.G. Wodehouse farce. James is a bit of an idiot. He has a superior air towards Petronella sometimes but he does see her as a little sister. I get that more than I get a misogynistic vibe from him. As far as supporting characters go, one can't forget Wilberforce, the butler, who has strict ideas about his place but is a champ when it comes to helping the family.
I would enjoy reading more about these characters to see what adventures they have next.