The Secret of the Sealed Room: A Mystery of Young Benjamin Franklin

Written by Bailey MacDonald
Review by Marion O’Sullivan Patricia O’Sullivan

Fourteen-year-old Patience Martin is unhappily indentured to the sick and demanding widow Abedela Worth. But when Mrs. Worth dies unexpectedly, instead of freeing Patience, Mrs. Worth’s brother-in-law decides to sell Patience to a harsh master. With little more than her quick wit and the help of a resourceful printer’s apprentice named Benjamin Franklin, Patience runs away and plans to leave town and become a servant for pay in another city. But when Patience’s friend, Moll, is jailed for poisoning Mrs. Worth, Patience decides to stay in Boston to discover how Mrs. Worth died. Patience and Benjamin must solve the secret of the sealed room before Moll is hanged for murder.

This is a lively and fun read. MacDonald’s characters are well drawn and the plot moves along at a good pace. In addition, the historical detail about pre-Revolutionary Boston, especially concerning the life of young Benjamin Franklin, is woven into the story seamlessly. The story never feels like a history lesson. The mystery is a bit predictable, but readers will appreciate MacDonald’s twist at the end when Patience learns that nice people can do wicked things and mean people are not all they appear.

Patricia O’Sullivan

Patience Martin is fourteen years of age living in 18th-century Boston. She is bound to four years of working for her mistress Abedela Worth. But when the widow falls ill and mysteriously dies, locked in her room, Patience is held responsible for the theft of Ms. Worth’s strongbox. What other choice does she have to flee from the accusation and Ms. Worth’s brother-in law-who swears to bind Patience to several more years working for a wicked man? With the help of a young printer’s apprentice, Ben Franklin, Patience has to keep hidden in the printing house and disguise herself as a Quaker. After all, there is a reward for her capture. It only gets worse when Patience’s friend, Moll Bacon, is accused of Ms. Worth’s death and thrown in jail. Ben can’t keep Patience hidden forever but with a clever mind like his, will they solve the mystery of the Secret of the Sealed Room?

The Secret of the Sealed Room was a wonderful book. Mysteries for me are appealing because I can never put them down due to the idea of what might happen next. I think Ms. MacDonald crafted her characters very well. It was interesting to imagine Ben Franklin as a young boy because many people think of him now as the brilliant mind who found a way to harness electricity. This book is a fantastic read.

Marion O’Sullivan, Age 12