More spurious adventures with those crime-solving minxes Ada Byron (Lovelace) and Mary Godwin (Shelley).
They are joined by their sidekicks from series opener The Case of the Missing Moonstone (2015), “Charlie” Dickens and Percy Bysshe “Peebs” Shelley, as well as two new characters, their younger sisters, impish Allegra and prim Jane, respectively. In this frolic, the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency is hired to investigate a young lady’s intended groom. High jinks ensue. As in the previous volume, Stratford plays so fast and loose with historical fact that readers familiar with it will wonder why he bothers. In addition to closing up the 18-year gap between Ada and Mary, he resurrects Allegra from the dead (she died at the age of 5) and erases the fact that Jane was the illegitimate Allegra’s mother. (All of this is revealed in the historical notes at the conclusion.) It’s a shame that Stratford has built his novel on such a heap of lies, as it’s not otherwise a bad book. The mystery itself is no more contrived than many middle-grade whodunits; the character development (independent as most of it is of actual history) is snappy; and at a sentence level, it can be downright lovely: a release of breath “lift[s Ada’s] stray brown bangs in a wave hello to the dust motes in the air.”
A tragically flawed premise results in a lamentable waste of excellent writing. (Historical mystery. 8-12)