Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Behind the Masks

Patron, Susan. Behind the Masks: The Diary of Angeline Reddy, Bodie, California, 1880
1 January 2012, Scholastic

Angeline Reddy's father, a lawyer in their small mining town, has supposedly been knifed to death, but she doesn't believe it. Struggling to help her mother, who is recuperating from a very bad abscessed tooth, Angie enlists the help of Mr. Duval, who works with her father, and Ling Loi, a Chinese girl who comes to her aid. She also makes friends with Eleanor, who is in her class. A vigilante group called the 601 is not happy with the work that Mr. Reddy is doing and are taking matters into their own hands, kicking people out of town. Since Angie feels that her father is still alive, she helps the ladies of the town plan the big fourth of July celebration, since her mother is not well enough to go to the meetings. Mr. Johl, a butcher who has been kind to Angie, asks the committee to let his wife work with them, but the ladies decline because Mrs. Johl was once worked in a brothel, and it wouldn't be proper. Angie stands up for Mrs. Johl, which turns out to be fortuitous, since Ling Loi was raised in the very brothel where Mrs. Johl worked, and considered her a mother figure. When the Johl's are run out of town by the 601, Angie is even more compelled to fight against them, even though she suspects that her friend Eleanor's father is working with them. When Mr. Reddy shows up at the town's elaborate fourth of July masked ball, he produces a list of the 601 that was stolen from Eleanor's father and results in the 601 being dealt with properly, which is difficult since the town sheriff and constable are both in the group. Notes and pictures following the story tell what parts of the story are based on real people and events, and which are fabricated. 
Strengths: Unlike many of the diary books, Angie is NOT overly concerned with her own issues, but instead is focused on the welfare of her father and the town. I especially liked all of the details of daily life that were included, like how to moth proof the carpets. This will be a big hit with fans of this series.
Weaknesses: The sub plot with the ghost child seemed very out of place to me and the book would have made more sense to me if this story line had been omitted.

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