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Monday, May 18, 2015

The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Moonstone. Written by Jordan Stratford and illustrated by Kelly Murphy. Alfred A. Knopf, Random House. 2015. $19.99 ages 9 and up

"It did not surprise Mary to find the house nearly silent when Mr. Franklin admitted her and took her cape. Ada was likely reading and Peebs was likely writing or planning lessons. Nodding to the ever-silent butler, she climbed the stairs to the library and found it empty of Ada. There was more nothing in the drawing room. She knocked on Ada's door. Still nothing. Curious, but hardly extraordinary."

Take two young girls who are destined to find fame and future success, adjust some of the more notable historical details, and you have the beginnings of a brand new mystery series for intermediate readers. In life Mary (Godwin)Shelley (author of Frankenstein) was much older than Ada (Byron) Lovelace. The author takes the two and puts them in a setting that allows them to become friends and fellow sleuths by shaving off some of the years that separated them. In his book, the two are closer in age that they actually were: it works!

Mary is transported daily by carriage (which also carries a young and cleverly 'invisible' Charles Dickens) to be tutored, along with Ada Byron, by a young man named Percy. Ada dubs him Peebs. He is, in fact, Percy Shelley; no one is supposed to know that. The three spend their days in pursuit of knowledge. Mary is ever so thankful to be tutored at the Byron house.

"The next two weeks progressed along similar lines: riding unchaperoned with the reading boy who pretended he wasn't there, stepping past the mysteriously silent butler (could he speak? dare he not? was he the bearer of some grim secret?), settling down to study in the drawing room, and marveling at Ada's refusal to do the same."

Ada is an entity unto herself: determined, brilliant, uncompromising, inventive, socially inept, and often unfriendly. Mary likes her despite that cool temperament. To liven up their days, they decide that they will work together to solve cases as the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency. They advertise their skills. Mary would willingly take any case; Ada is far more particular. She carefully combs through the details from the letters received, only wanting to accept the perfect set of circumstances.

The Case of the Missing Moonstone concerns Rebecca and a priceless gift given to her by her uncle. When it goes missing at her coming-out party, the maid Rosie confesses. Rebecca knows that Rosie did not steal the necklace. Ada and Mary are on the job!

Fun to read, filled with charm and humor, this is a book that is sure to garner attention and captivate readers. Those who read and love it will be anxious to get their hands on a second book. The two girls are strong and likeable, the plot moves the story along quickly, and the historical bent will attract more fans.

Be sure to check out, if you want to know more, and if you have readers keen to further investigate.


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