Friday, September 1, 2023

Today's read... More Than a Thief by Beverly Patt

The title caught my attention on today's read, and I was in the mood for an original mystery. Set in 1892, this tale takes a spin on the well-known Borden murders while whispering promises of more than  a rehash of the same plot. I'm hoping for some rich, historical settings and, hopefully, a few unexpected surprises. Maybe, it's the right read to start building up to October, too? Well, let's just dive in and find out.

by Beverly Patt
Owl Hollow Press
Young Adult Historical Mystery
332 pages

In 1892, in the bustling town of Fall River, Massachusetts, 16-year-old Victoria feels trapped by her high-society, pre-debutante life. Not only is she forced to have a chaperone for anything outside of the house, but she is also stuck playing nursemaid to her mother suffering from an unexplained paralysis.

Victoria’s only escapes are visits with her neighbor Miss Lizzie Borden, reading Sherlock Holmes serials and―when the urge overtakes her―stealing.

When her next-door neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Borden are murdered and Lizzie is accused of committing the acts, Victoria begins crossing paths with apprentice detective Declan Dempsey as they both search for the truth. Victoria doesn’t want to believe that Lizzie committed those murders. Because if her friend has a dark side, what does that mean for Victoria with her own sordid secret?

When Victoria discovers Lizzie also shares her penchant for stealing, Victoria swears off her secret habit for good. In her quest to not become Lizzie Borden, Victoria loses old friends, makes questionable new ones, and finds her fiercest enemy resides within her own skin.

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While the mystery keeps the tension high, Victoria's own life and inner struggles add surprising depth.

Victoria is sixteen and on the verge of having her Coming Out ball, but that also means her life has become horribly constrained thanks to the rules surrounding what she can and cannot do. It doesn't help that she spends most of her life caring for her mother, who suffers from strange bouts of paralysis. Her father escapes all of it by spending weeks away. When her neighbors are suddenly murdered, everything gets turned on its head, especially when Victoria's own friend, Lizzie, is accused of the murder. Victoria's love for Sherlock Holmes and mysteries isn't the only thing she'll need to prove her friend is innocent. Victoria will need to find a way to handle her own dark secrets.

I was a little hesitant to dive into a tale surrounding the famous Borden murders but am glad I did. While the basic murder remains the same, the author uses the facts to spin a fresh and interesting tale.  The time period is rich and well-laid out, and not only in the details and daily life. This book takes a look at the society and, especially the rules and habits surrounding women. The attitudes and expectations come across clear while flowing naturally into the happenings and scenes. It even goes a step further as it shows how women, who suffered from mental illness, were seen and treated. So, there's plenty of information and food for thought.

The mystery end is enjoyable and holds a bit of a cozy flair while diving into the timeframe. Victoria has a good nose for clues, and it's easy to root for her as she tries her best to help her friend, while dealing with her own problems. The situation keeps the reader guessing the entire way through as each character seems to harbor secrets. Victoria grows in several ways as she steps past her comfort zone and faces the obstacles one by one. There's a hint of romance, but it's light and never overpowers the main mystery. Rather, it weaves with a hint of secrets and surprises too. 

Fans of Sherlock Holmes, historical settings, and characters, who push back against societal rules, are sure to enjoy this one.

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