The Case of the Girl in Grey
London, 1826. In the second Wollstonecraft Detective Agency adventure, rising thirteen-year-old Ada Byron (brilliant mathematician but hopeless with people) and her friend, Mary Godwin (good with people and loves mysteries), are struggling with a new case.
Who is the desperate girl Mary sees running away in the rain in Regent’s Park? Is she any connection of heiress Lizzie Earnshaw, whose fiancé, Sir Caleb Gulpidge, is suspiciously trying to get hold of Lizzie’s fortune before their marriage? The two girls, Lizzie and Alice, look very alike. And has Mr Earnshaw’s will really gone missing? Ada and Mary are asked to investigate. Things are not helped by the arrival of Ada’s half-sister, the nine-year-old Allegra, who’s desperate to help. She says she’s good at fencing but what’s the use of that? And Mary’s step-sister, the snobby Jane Clairmont, also wants to be involved.
I enjoyed this, once I disentangled the roles and ages of the four young detectives from their historical counterparts. I’d have found it easier if I hadn’t heard of any of them before. As it was, I couldn’t help thinking: But surely Jane is Allegra’s mother! For much of the book there were six girls to keep track of, and I kept finding myself re-reading to keep track of who was where. Personally, I think that confining the number of girl detectives to three and dropping Jane would be less confusing.
Having said that, this is an enjoyable and exciting read, both as a detective and an adventure story. It is also as a sort of literary treasure hunt for anyone interested in the literature of the period. I liked the young Dickens’ contributions, not to mention Shelley’s, with touches of Charlotte Brontë and Wilkie Collins thrown in for good measure. Girls of 10 plus should enjoy this book.