Saturday, June 23, 2012

ARC Review: Secret Letters by Leah Scheier

Secret Letters
Author: Leah Scheier
Publication: Hyperion Book CH (June 26, 2012)

Description: Inquisitive and observant, Dora dreams of escaping her aristocratic country life to solve mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes. So when she learns that the legendary detective might be her biological father, Dora jumps on the opportunity to travel to London and enlist his help in solving the mystery of her cousin’s ransomed love letters. But Dora arrives in London to devastating news: Sherlock Holmes is dead. Her dreams dashed, Dora is left to rely on her wits—and the assistance of an attractive yet enigmatic young detective—to save her cousin’s reputation and help rescue a kidnapped heiress along the way. 
Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this gripping novel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice in young adult literature. 

My Thoughts: This was an exciting and entertaining historical mystery. Dora Joyce is sixteen and being raised in the house of an aunt. Her parents died of cholera but, before she passed away, her mother confessed that her father was the famous Sherlock Holmes. Dora became fascinated by the stories about him in the newspaper and became interested in meeting him and becoming a detective herself. Unfortunately, well-bred Victorian girls didn't have that as a career option. Her interest in detection just made her odd. But, when an older cousin confesses that she is being blackmailed because of some indiscreet letters she wrote before her marriage, Dora seizes the opportunity to meet Sherlock Holmes and investigate.

Cousin Adelaide and Dora travel to London but Dora meets a severe setback. As soon as she arrives she learns that Sherlock Holmes has perished in an accident in Switzerland. She almost faints and is rescued by seventeen-year-old Peter Cartwright who knew Holmes and who now works for another detective. Cousin Adelaide consults with the new detective and Dora is determined to be part of the investigation. When she "accidentally" leaves her purse behind she has an excuse to visit again. During that visit she overhears Lord Hartfield consult with the detectives about his missing daughter. 

Things happen and Dora finds herself at Hartfield's home posing as a scullery maid to try to find out who is blackmailing her cousin and what happened to Hartfield's daughter. There are lots of exciting happenings and lots of banter between Peter Cartwright and Dora. Peter and Dora work together and manage to solve both cases.

I think what I liked most about this mystery was to whole setting. I was really immersed in the Victorian mindset. Watching Dora try to work within the system made me immensely glad that I live in the 21st Century. Watching women hide their real selves from men and watching men treat women as rather helpless children was realistic to the time period but annoying to this modern woman.

I recommend this story to both mystery readers and readers who enjoy historical fiction. I don't know if a sequel is planned but, if not, I will still be thinking about a possible future for both Peter and Dora.

Favorite Quote:
I was suddenly exhausted. I wanted the comfort of my pillow, the darkness of the sheets over my head. And I didn't want to listen to this speech about my "hobby" anymore. I had heard it so many times before. My odd behavior, my hopes, my studies, they were all so strange, so alien to everyone I loved. And everyone agreed that I ought to change: my aunt, my pastor, even my dearest cousin, everyone except-except- "I met a boy outside," I told her quietly. "He handed me this card and invited you to call. Do as you please, Adelaide. I am going back to bed."
I received this eARC from Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. You can buy a copy here.

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