Louisa and the Crystal Gazer

Written by Anna Maclean
Review by Patrika Salmon

It has become quite fashionable and profitable in the American writing world for an author to take a well-known person and turn him or her into a detective. Publishers love this, as they know that readers will buy the book to see what the famous person does. The problem is that this fashion has led to a quantity of whodunits rather than quality whodunits. Of greater concern to HNS readers is the poor historical research, resulting in infuriating howlers.

Louisa and the Crystal Gazer is set in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1855, and the main character is Louisa May Alcott. It’s the third in a series and of higher quality than many of its ilk. The dialogue is overly heavy with Victorian polysyllabic words, and if you can imagine a grown-up Jo from Little Women as heroine, then you have the story. Louisa’s friend takes her to a medium, a second visit leads to a dead body, and then it’s a race to find the villain. P.T. Barnum is a minor character, and other names are dropped along the way.

This is a simple mystery, and Louisa, telling the reader what happens, is a charming character. Is she the real Louisa May Alcott, though?