Title: The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Moonstone
Author: Jordan Stratford
Genre: Middle Grade, Mystery, Historical Fiction (I guess so…)
About the book (Taken from Goodreads):
Jordan Stratford imagines an alternate 1826, where Ada Lovelace (the world’s first computer programmer) and Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) meet as girls and form a secret detective agency!
Lady Ada Byron, age eleven, is a genius. Isolated, awkward and a bit rude—but a genius. Mary Godwin, age fourteen, is a romantic. Adventurous, astute, and kind, Mary is to become Ada’s first true friend. And together, the girls conspire to form the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency—a secret constabulary for the apprehension of clever criminals. Their first case involves a stolen heirloom, a false confession, and an array of fishy suspects. But it’s no match for the deductive powers and bold hearts of Ada and Mary.
The best thing about this book is its characters. Ada and Mary are form a kind of Sherlock/Watson friendship. Ada being the socially inept reclusive genius and Mary being the empathetic and practical one. They are both intelligent, strong, and adventurous.
I will say, this book is not for reluctant readers. For one, there is quite a run of difficult vocabulary––though often the reader will be helped out by one of the characters (Stratford does a great job of incorporating definitions without it sounding forced or unnatural). Two, there are a lot of historical references children may not be familiar with (this can be looked at as a great little history lesson). And three, the plot drags a bit as the actual mystery is not particularly inventive or thrilling (too neat, tidy, and simple). The case itself only takes up a small portion of the overall story. This book serves its purpose as an introduction to the characters, setting, and era, but the lack a serious plot may make mystery readers less enthused about the next book.
Adult readers and lit fans will revel in the historical characters mentioned and all the nods to the gothic, mystery, and victorian writers of the time. Unfortunately, all that will go right over the average MG reader’s head (but still I nice introduction to Byron, Shelly, Dickens, and others).
Overall: Three stars. The characters are excellent (seriously funny and endearing), the historical details are nicely done and introductions to historical figures, well placed. The plot is so-so, however, and the mystery, sadly less than that. I did enjoy the book, but I was really hoping for more (plot-wise). Not sure if I’ll read the next one.