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THE CURIOUS CASE OF MARY ANN

An inventive combination of fresh storytelling and an adored classic.

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A housemaid—a minor character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—investigates the mystery of her father’s murder in this fantasy novel.

Among the fanciful events in Alice, the White Rabbit mistakes the title character at one point for Mary Ann, apparently his housemaid. In this imaginative take, Thorson (Tryfling Matters, 2015, etc.) tells a Wonderland story from Mary Ann’s point of view. Her fussy employer wants to give Queen Valentina the perfect Unbirthday present, so Mary Ann suggests that her father, Rowan Carpenter, a talented woodworker, could make one. She and Rowan aren’t close—he believes children should be both useful and far away—but she travels to collect the gift, a mirror with a carved frame. On arrival at her father’s house, she’s horrified to discover that someone in a red tunic is chopping off Rowan’s head. Mary Ann is determined to learn the truth and get justice for her father’s murder, so she finds incognito employment and starts investigating. She uncovers information about Rowan’s business partner, a walrus, and learns that the mirror is a magic portal. She also aids young Sir Rufus in slaying the Jabberwock (“Lots of people teach things about which they haven’t the slightest inkling”) and in searching for his lost sense of humor. Mary Ann will discover more than one shocking truth before she’s done, if she can hold onto her own head. Thorson has a brilliant idea in mixing the world of Alice with a murder mystery. The result is a demented but internally consistent detective story—the motive, means, and opportunity make sense. What’s more, although tackling a pastiche of a well-loved children’s book is a daunting task, Thorson succeeds beautifully. She deftly captures Carroll’s absurdity, wordplay, and unsettling strangeness and rings some changes of her own. Here’s Mary Ann getting housemaid instructions: “So start with the fireplaces. Then fluster the moldings, massage the brass, milk the jugs, tickle the ivory and when you’re quite done with that, report back and I’ll give you some real work to do.”

An inventive combination of fresh storytelling and an adored classic.

Pub Date: June 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9838045-8-1

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Waterhouse Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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