Following A Dastardly Plot (2018), the plucky heroes seek vindication and victory through a daring quest to discover the South Pole.
Although the government has sworn Molly Pepper, her inventor mother, Cassandra, and her friend Emmett Lee to secrecy regarding the truth of the World Fair—meaning they can’t claim ownership of their heroics—things should be looking up for the Peppers. But when Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell fail to secure the votes to allow women into the Inventors’ Guild, which would secure Cassandra both recognition and financial rewards, the inventor goes into a funk and her daughter schemes to let the truth out. Also scheming is intrepid young investigative reporter Nellie Bly (whose constant disguises and alter egos are a running gag). Thwarted by the government, they launch a desperate gambit with the help of the Mothers of Invention to beat Bell to the South Pole, where he’s pursuing the villainous Rector. The first act’s pacing is a little off, but the characters’ frustrations with their circumstances and oppressions are tangible. As the plot (a string of treacherous betrayals) picks up, so does the humor. While racial descriptors are mainly absent (leaving most characters assumed white), people of color are present in a stop in Barbados, and African American inventor Sarah Goode returns. Furthermore, the oppression experienced by Chinese-born Emmett Lee is openly dealt with. The ending is a minor cliffhanger. A glossary-style afterword separates fact from fiction. Readers new to the series should start with Vol. 1.
Slapstick leavens this back-stabbing adventure. (Historical science-fantasy. 8-12)