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Louisa and the Country Bachelor

by Anna MacLean

      We all know that Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women and has a well-loved place in readers' hearts, but what if this unconventional woman also solved crimes? It's a good idea, for she and her family led rather exceptional lives, and it is certainly easier to imagine this happening to them than to many other historical figures. For her debut, read Louisa and the Missing Heiress (essential before this second installment I would say), and then pick up with her and the rest of the Alcott clan in Walpole. Their world seems deceptively peaceful, but an antagonistic storeowner, some tiresome but mysterious neighbors, and a sudden death soon intrude upon their idyll.

      I am not normally a fan of novels where the background and characters are more interesting than the story, but here I make an exception. This is not to say that the plot is dull (although it is less obtrusive most of the time than in the first book), but reading about Louisa and her wonderful, beautifully drawn family is a far bigger treat. It is all here - her absentminded philosopher father, tantalising reminiscences of her strange childhood, her friendship with people like Fanny Kemble, and the way Louisa spent her days. This alone is so enjoyable that the murder mystery seems to take a back seat at times, but perhaps this makes the story more realistic, as life goes on for Walpole and the Alcotts regardless of dramas. Having Louisa tell the story in her own words makes it come to life even more. This is one series where I will buy the next installment if I don't get it to review! Very enjoyable, and if there is a future novel about the Alcott's role in the Underground Railroad, so much the better...

The Book

Signet Mystery (Penguin Group USA)
April 2005
Historical Crime [1855, New Hampshire]
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The Reviewer
Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2005
© 2005