Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Mysterious Messenger

Ford, Gilbert. The Mysterious Messenger
July 21st 2020 by Macmillan Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Maria is being raised by her mother, sketchy psychic Madame Destine, who does phony seances and readings and then fleeces her customers with the help of Mr. Fox, the apartment superintendent in their city apartment building. Neither adult cares very much for Maria, and she has inadequate food support. She spends most of her days at the public library, where her job is to check the obituaries every day and report back to her mother with elderly widows without families. The librarian, Ms. Madigan, is very concerned about her, especially when Maria needs a permission slip signed to display some of Maria's work, and she (and Officer O'Malley) are unable to reach her mother. When her mother tries to get a ring from Mrs. Fisher, Maria is supposed to intervene and convince the woman to donate it to a phony charity, but Maria gets messages from a ghost names Eddy, and he tells her to help Mrs. Fisher find a treasure in her apartment. With the help of Sebastian, a boy she has met at the library who lives in an apartment in the same building, Maria tries to figure out what this might be. While visiting both Sebastian's family and the very nice Mrs. Fisher, Maria realizes that her life is not very nice, and that she is longing for a supportive family of her own. As she closes in on Mrs. Fisher's treasure, her mother threatens to move away from the city after absconding with the treasure. It's clear that while her mother doesn't care about her, the other people in her life do, including the ghost who has been guiding her.
Strengths: The information about Mrs. Fisher's late husband running an independent publishing house that produced work from Beat poets and other mid-century figures was fascinating, and the treasure connected with that was very interesting. The support that Maria gets from the library staff, as well as Sebastian's family and eventually Mrs. Fisher, is heart warming. The way that the ghost communicates with Maria, especially given her mother's occupation, is well done and ties in with the mystery of the treasure. This moved quickly and was easy to read and remember.
Weaknesses: Maria's mother was so evil that it was hard to believe. Also, I usually like Ford's illustrations, but perhaps the resolution in the E ARC did not showcase the spot illustrations in a flattering manner.
What I really think: I am not a fan of this author's Pseudonymous Bosch's The Name of this Book is Secret (2007), but it still circulates in my library, which is impressive. This is very similar (with the addition of a ghost) to Fitzgerald's Under the Egg (2014), and has shades of Schlitz's A Drowned Maiden's Hair (2010) and The Harlem Charade (2017), as well as Young's A Girl, A Raccoon, and a Midnight Moon (2020).
Ms. Yingling

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