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Thursday, June 21, 2012

THE UNDERSTUDY'S REVENGE By Sophie Masson. Sydney : Scholastic, 2011. ISBN: 9781741698138

Finally, for today, another Sisters In Crime review that missed the deadline! Enjoy!

This is set in the London of Charles Dickens, who was editing a magazine, All The Year Round, at this time and has a walk-on in one scene where the heroine visits the  magazine's offices. 

Millie Osborne is the daughter of a theatre manager. The theatre has been her life, but her real ambition is to become a writer and journalist. Now, with the arrival of mysterious Oliver Parry, an actor auditioning for a production of Hamlet, she sees a story in the making, but also finds that there is a mystery in the life of the company's leading actors and owners, James and Lily King, who married soon after the death of James's overbearing brother Robert. Lily had lost a son, but is he really dead? And if he isn't, is there a real-life Hamlet story happening under Millie's nose, with the danger of a similar ending? Millie and her friend Seth, a courier for Charles Dickens, are determined to find out before a new tragedy can happen.

The novel brings Victorian London to life, with all the dirt and noise and the Victorian passion for seances. Some of it is seen from Seth's viewpoint, when Millie has been knocked unconscious (but apparently has escaped concussion). Seth is a likeable character who can improvise when in trouble. Millie is also a strong, brave character. It is easy enough to believe she might make it as an investigative writer. There is a touch of fantasy here, but otherwise it's just good historical fiction with a mystery involved and clues that can be put together.

I have enjoyed Sophie Masson's historical fantasy before and I was not disappointed in this one.


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