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Louisa and the Crystal Gazer
Louisa May Alcott series #3

by Anna MacLean

      If, like this reviewer, you have read and enjoyed the first two books featuring unconventional sleuth Louisa May Alcott (Louisa and the Missing Heiress and Louisa and the Country Bachelor (the latter reviewed on this site) then you will be pleased to see this third entry. It is near Christmas, and this is the first Louisa is spending away from home, staying with a close family friend in Boston and earning money by making shirts for a clergyman. Everything seems quite dull and ordinary, until her irrepressible heiress friend Sylvia decides to attend a séance to contact her late father. The highlight of this is meeting the great PT Barnum, but the medium is obviously a fraud, and not a pleasant woman. When she is found dead, her maid is wrongfully arrested, and Louisa and Sylvia decide to find out who really killed her, and more importantly why.

Although the background and characters are still the stars of this particular show, the plot balances them out nicely, and thus there is a lot to enjoy here. The plot is more to the fore than it was in the second book which is a good thing (it is a novel, after all!), and I was enjoyably distracted by many red herrings as I tried to guess whodunit. Interwoven with the investigation is Sylvia’s burgeoning romance with the policeman, plenty of gentle humor, descriptions of mid 19th century Boston and Louisa’s own narrative. Although the Alcotts are very poor, the celebrity of her father insures that she is welcome almost anywhere, and gets to meet the most interesting figures of the day. Her unconventional life is all the more fascinating because so much of it is true, and thus there is so much in this comparatively short book that it fairly bursts out. I continue to enjoy having Louisa narrate the story in a very authentic-sounding style which brings the setting and action to life, and this is one series where I will buy the fourth installment. If I don’t receive it to review! Highly enjoyable.

The Book

Signet Mystery (Penguin Group USA)
May 2006
Historical Crime [1855, Boston]
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2006
© 2006