Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Mystery Thursday- The Case of the Girl in Grey

25354658Stratford, Jordan. The Case of the Girl in Grey (The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency #2)
January 5th 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf
Copy provided by the publisher

After The Case of the Missing Moonstone, Ada and her friends are back, this time hired by a very smart mathematician... who is a woman! Mrs. Sommerville is concerned about her niece Lizzie's impending marriage to Sir Caleb. While everything seems fine on the surface, she has an underlying feeling of suspicion, so hires Ada, Mary Allegra and Jane to visit and assess the situation. Once there, the girls are uncomfortable as well, and overhear some things that make them worry about Lizzie's future. Ada returns later, and she and Lizzie get caught out in a storm while investigating, and Ada becomes deathly ill. Meanwhile, assisted by Charles Dickens, Mary is able to shed some light on a ghostly figure who looked much like Lizzie, as well as secrets about Sir Caleb's shady past. Will the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency be able to stop the wedding before Lizzie comes to grief?

Strengths: There were some nice details about every day life in Georgian England, charming illustrations, and lots of codes and investigative techniques. Historical figures are used to good effect, and the tweaking that occurs in the time line is explained at the back. This would be a good way to introduce famous women scientists and mathematicians to younger students. The plot is a simple mystery, but has enough turns in it to make it interesting. 
Weaknesses: There are a lot of characters in this, and it makes it hard to keep everyone straight. Except Allegra. She's too annoying to be unremarkable.
What I really think: While I enjoy books like this, they are a very hard sell for my students. I will dust off the first in the series and see if I can get someone to check it out. 

25663502Spratt, R.A. Friday Barnes: Girl Detective
January 19th 2016 by Roaring Brook Press 
E ARC from

Friday is the product of very busy parents who have four older children, and then are surprised by Friday's appearance. They encourage her to accelerate academically, but pay little attention to her otherwise. When she solves a mystery of a theft at a bank, she used the $50,000 reward to send herself to a private school. Since she is used to dressing in "camouflage" colors so as to go unnoticed and be better able to sleuth, she is a bit appalled that her traditional outfit looks out of place amidst all of the designer clothes. Nevertheless, she manages to solve all manner of mysteries at the school.

Strengths: This is a funny, short mystery with a fun setting and a quirky main character, and mysteries like that are usually fairly popular. 

Weaknesses: Friday is quirky beyond the boundaries of belief, and this was rather annoying. The teachers were all ridiculous, and the mysteries were of the "dogs in the neighborhood being kidnapped" variety, which don't do well with my murder loving middle school readers. 

What I really think: Australian books just don't translate well, even if they are given new illustrations with characters in typically US letterman jackets. 

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