Saturday, June 11, 2011

Louisa May Alcott as a Detective

This is a reissue, in trade paperback, of a book originally published in 2004. Upon rereading the book I see that my original opinion has not changed, in fact I enjoyed the book even more the second time around when, knowing the plot, I could concentrate on the author's rich prose style. The new format makes the book even easier to read, and the new cover design is more appealing than the previous one. The publisher is still Penguin but the book is now out under the Obsidian imprint. Alison Lurie writing in the The New York Review of Books calls it: "A historically accurate and entertaining mystery series." The two other volumes will be reissued in the coming months.

A new sleuth has arrived on the scene, the author Louisa May Alcott. Ms. Alcott was known to have written a few thrillers herself when not writing things like "Little Women." Anna Maclean has gone back and recreated this aspect of Louisa's life with amazing fidelity; however Ms. Alcott does not just write mysteries, but also solves them.

Written with the precision and skill of her historical novels, Jean Mackin creates a minor masterpiece in her debut as Anna Maclean, mystery writer. The plot winds itself in and around pre-Civil War Boston with the beauty and complexity of a Medieval tapestry. The story is entangled with numerous characters functioning on many levels, often seeming to contradict themselves, leading us down many blind alleys. I must admit I could not put this book down. Just when I thought I had figured out who the guilty party was I discovered some new reason why they did not do it. The ending is quite a surprise. If you are looking for an entertaining historical mystery, and value good writing, I give this book my highest recommendation.

ISBN 978-0-451-23324-0 $14.00 U.S. 16.50 CAN. 319 pages