Thursday, February 09, 2017

Lots of Mysteries!

Smith, Ronald L. The Mesmerist
February 7th 2017 by Clarion Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Jessamine lives with her mother in London after her father's death, eking out an existence doing sham seances, which was a popular thing in Victorian times. When she and her mother get a mysterious message during one of their readings, they seek out the help of Balthazar, who is a fairy and tells them that Jessamine really does have powers to communicate with the dead. They get sucked into the perilous underworld of London, dealing with dark powers. When her mother is killed by the evil Mephisto, Jessamine is glad to heave the help of Balthazar as well as other orphans under his care, Emily and Gabriel. Jessamine manages to overcome her fear and grief to help battle these myriad forces. 
Strengths: Smith, whose HooDoo also was a historical mystery/horror title, does a great job at researching and describing his settings, and the stories have a deliciously creepy feel to them. 
Weaknesses: This would have been a tighter, scarier story if it had been under 200 pages. 
What I really think: This is very reminiscent of Schlitz's A Drowned Maiden's Hair, Jinks' How to Catch a Bogle, and a couple of other titles dealing with mesmerism, seances, and general supernatural happenings in a Victorian London setting. While I can get a few of these to check out, it's just not a topic my students request. This is a great book if you have readers for it. I enjoyed it a lot.  

Warner, Gertrude Chandler. Journey on a Runaway Train (Great Adventure #1)
February 1st 2017 by Albert Whitman & Company
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of The Boxcar Children, Whitman has put out a new series, not to be confused with the graphic novel series. 

Jessie, Benny, Violet and Henry, who are living with their Grandfather and Trudy the housekeeper, are recruited by the Reddimus Society to return an artifact to Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. They have a little help from adults, who do fund train tickets, but are generally left to their own devices, in typical Boxcar Fashion. This is the first of a five book series, and would be excellent for fans of the rather substantial mystery series. The writing is simple, but without the "Oh, Benny. Look, Benny!" tone that dragged down the original series. Solid purchase for elementary school libraries.

That said, I remember practically nothing about the story, other than it seemed far fetched, and there was absolutely no reason whatsoever for the children to have to be the ones delivering the artifact back to its original owners. Will pass on purchase. 

I do always enjoy the original book, and the story of Gertrude Chandler Warner is a fascinating one. I'm glad that the series has stayed with Whitman-- it's just not what I need in the way of a middle school mystery. 

23310691Lane, Andrew. Knife Edge (Young Sherlock Holmes #6)
December 8th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) 
Library Copy

Interestingly, this goes right along with The Mesmerist in that it has a Victorian England setting and a plot involving Spiritualism. It's also set in Galway, which is fun. The first book is fairly popular in my library, and I have two copies, but I can't get students to read beyond the third book, which is a common problem. Drat. Snake Bite, where Sherlock gets shanghaied, was great, but this one even left me a little cold. I'm going to pass on Stone Cold and Night Break, as much as I like these personally. 

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