A pleasure for mystery buffs.



Weird high jinks by minor nobility fuel this enjoyable, sometimes too leisurely stroll into Victorian history.

Holders of one of the greatest private fortunes in England and an enormous family home called Welbeck Abbey, the Cavendish-Bentincks were a strange lot, and they declined nearly as quickly as they rose. By 1898, write British journalist Freeman-Keel (From Auschwitz to Alderney, not reviewed, etc.) and popular historian Crofts (Sold, not reviewed, etc.), even the once-grand family mausoleum had deteriorated. Down among the moldering skeletons was an eldritch world of dark tunnels and hidden doorways, for the lords of the manor liked nothing better than keeping secrets and squirreling away their treasures. A half-century earlier it had been rumored among the populace around Welbeck Abbey that down among the underground chambers the fifth duke of Portland was constructing “a chapel that would later be changed to a ballroom, which would be the largest unsupported structure in the world.” Lord John, the aforesaid duke as well as marquis of Titchfield, and the other Cavendish-Bentincks, had a fine time of it in the mid-19th century; they were instrumental in Disraeli’s election, popular among the aristocracy (though whispered about), and well-enough liked by the locals to sire an illegitimate child or two. But their good times unraveled in strange ways that involved fratricide, blackmail, madness, grave-robbing, identity-switching, petty larceny, and all other manner of mischief, not to mention a couple of Bleak House–style lawsuits. It was enough to keep an Inspector Morse occupied for years, and the authors do a fine job of spinning out the saga. If their story is a little overblown at times, they pull together its many threads into a neat package by the end.

A pleasure for mystery buffs.

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7867-1045-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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