Saturday, May 23, 2009

Seneca Falls Inheritance

I like to re-read mystery series.  I'm sure that seems odd to some people, because what's the point of reading  a mystery if you know the solution?  For me, the point is to revisit the characters earlier in their history and see how they've grown over the years.  And, to be honest, with nearly eight years and 457 books between visits, some of the details of Seneca Falls Inheritance were a little fuzzy.

The book opens with a flatboat accident which kills Friedrich Steicher and his wife.  A few weeks later, his daughter by a brief, annulled first marriage appears in Seneca Falls, asking for directions to the Steicher farm.  Her body turns up in the canal the next day, and when the town learns of her parentage, Steicher's son becomes the main suspect.  Constable Cullen Stuart and town librarian Glynis Tyron piece together the solution, with a few unlikely but not totally unbelievable twists.

Miriam Grace Monfredo ties this mystery to the organization of the 1848 Women's Rights Convention, and she isn't totally successful in doing so.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton sets the main plot in motion by writing to Steicher's first wife, asking her to tell her daughter that she may be in line to inherit a prosperous farm and has enlisted the novel's fictional librarian/detective to help organize the Convention, but the convention itself feels unconnected to the main plot.  I've always been fond of that particular historical event (I memorized Stanton's keynote address in 6th grade forensics), but in retrospect, its appearance in Seneca Falls Inheritance feels a bit forced.  The book also contains a bit too much character exposition and explanation, probably because it's the first in the series,  and it's not particularly complex.  Like Sharon Kay Penman's Justin de Quincy mysteries, it may serve as a good bridge from YA to adult novels for pre-teens interested in mysteries or historical novels.

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