Secret Letters

328p. Hyperion/Disney. June 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4231-2405-4.
RedReviewStarGr 7–9—Inquisitive and adventuresome, 16-year-old Dora wants desperately to escape the confines of her 1887 aristocratic life, hoping to follow in the footsteps of the famed Sherlock Holmes, whom she suspects is her biological father. When a cousin is blackmailed, Dora happily agrees to accompany her to London in hopes of enlisting Holmes to solve the case and also to verify his paternity. Her plans are dashed when she learns of Holmes's death; however, when an attractive 17-year-old detective, Peter Cartwright, invites her to assist him in searching for a kidnapped heiress, Dora jumps at the chance. Well-paced and filled with cliff-hanger chapter endings, Scheier's first novel is teeming with details of Victorian England that enrich both plot and character development and attest to the differences between those living "upstairs" and "downstairs." The restricted lives of women of both classes and the wholesale freedom allowed men are particularly underscored. Dora is a fully realized heroine who matures from being a dewy-eyed innocent into an observant assistant, relying on her wits and quick thinking. Peter is also well developed (if rather confident for one so young), and, although he is smitten by Dora's uniqueness, their story never descends into romantic claptrap. Difficult vocabulary is generally explained in context, and the tale is filled with aspects of criminology—code breaking, secret messages, disguises, trysts, kidnapping, and, of course, murder-that are sure to excite CSI fans. This novel, part-romance and part-detective story, begs for a sequel.—Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI
When Dora learns that Sherlock Holmes is her biological father, she begins to study crime, hoping to meet the great detective. Though he dies before she arrives in London, Dora becomes embroiled in a case involving incriminating letters, a kidnapping, and hidden identities--and in a romance with Holmes's assistant. A tightly constructed plot and nonstop pacing will keep readers fully engaged.

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