Less ambitious than Voigt's other novels, this conforms to an established juvenile fiction genre, but it is a superior example of its type. Written in the first person with a touch of period primness, it's the story of Jean Wainwright's 13th summer in 1894, which she spends away from Aunt Constance, the admirable girls'-school headmistress who raised her, in the employ of wintery Mr. Thiel, the widow of Aunt Constance's girlhood friend Irene Callender. Mr. Thiel has summoned Jean to sort and dispose of several cartons of Callender family papers, a dull and bewildering task. But the Callender family mystery proves more intriguing: Why is Mr. Thiel not on speaking terms with Enoch Callender, Irene's younger brother, who lives nearby? Was Irene murdered, and if so by whom? And what happened to her child, who disappeared soon after its mother's death? As the summer and her task proceed, Jean becomes better acquainted with both Enoch and Mr. Thiel, and with Mac, the local doctor's son, who becomes her partner in tracking down the family secrets. Jean herself is poisoned, but whether purposely or by accident, whether in Enoch's home or in Mr. Thiel's, she can't be sure. It becomes clear that she's in danger, but from which side? Perhaps old Mr. Callender's will, which could answer much, can be found among the family papers. At times the conflicting claims are almost too much for Jean, whose uncertain judgment leads her into a potentially perilous situation. But through it all she exhibits a direct good sense and alert intelligence that win regard from all parties, and from readers as well. Readers may suspect all along what Jean discovers only at the end—that she herself is the Callender heir, Mr. Thiel is her father, and Enoch, spoiled and discontented, is responsible for his doting sister's death. But knowing that doesn't lessen the suspense or the satisfaction to be found in this engaging, aptly plotted, character-centered identity-mystery.
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