Monday, October 01, 2012

Mary Louise in the Country

And onto the next book!

Now that Mary Louise and her Grandpa Jim (aka Colonel Hathaway) are free to live together without fear of pursuit, they decide to spend their summer in the country in a summer house they've bought near a little town called Cragg's Crossing.

Mary Louise's eye gets caught by the neighboring home of Hezekiah Cragg ("Old Swallowtail," as the locals have nicknamed him) and his granddaughter Ingua. Ingua's a wild child who hasn't had proper upbringing. Her grandfather should be rich, but lives like a miser. As Mary Louise befriends the girl, she is confused by Ingua's story, so Josie O'Gorman is called in!

Josie poses as a sewing girl and manages to befriend Ingua so well that the girl confides her darkest secrets to her. Following Hezekiah by night, Josie hears machinery in a secluded area, such as a printing press. She thinks she's solved it when Mary Louise manages to convince Hezekiah to buy Ingua some new clothes and the shop keeper thinks the provided money looks suspicious: Mr. Cragg is in a counterfeiting operation!

Soon, Nan Cragg and Mr. O'Gorman show up on the scene. Nan's Ingua's widowed mother, who now works for the Secret Service herself and is determined to support her father. Mr. O'Gorman follows Josie by night, and presents the results of his own sleuthing: Cragg is not counterfeiting money. He is breaking America's non-neutrality stance by aiding a revolution in Ireland against England. However, Cragg has been misinformed: the revolution's already happened, so his partner—the long-thought missing "Ned Joselyn"—has been stealing Cragg's money. No worries, Nan manages to subdue Ned. The stolen money is returned to the Craggs, so they may finally begin a more respectable life.

That's the story, simplified to a synopsis. The story is actually filled with great character moments for the girls, and some nice intrigue as Josie investigates Cragg. Ingua is quite a fun character. She's almost like a Caucasian version of Topsy from Uncle Tom's Cabin, resigned to the fact that she's just not a good girl, but she's much more apt to try to improve herself, though she is proud.

Josie gets a bit more development as she improves on her craft. Like Sherlock Holmes in The Yellow Face, she discovers that even brilliant detectives can slip up.

Unfortunately, Mary Louise is quickly relegated to secondary role. While she's a good influence on Ingua (like Eva is to Topsy), she doesn't get to develop or really get defined any further. Josie says it herself: Mary Louise is simple and sweet, and that's all she's got going for her.

Excellent L. Frank Baum mystery, but the title character is still sadly skipped when it comes to characterization.

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