The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) by Ellen Raskin (J Mystery)

The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel)

Ellen Raskin (Juvenile Mystery)

It’s a funny thing about names.  Some are long, some are short; some mean something, others don’t; but everyone and everything has one, or two or three.

Caroline “Little Dumpling” Fish Carillon has quite the backstory for someone so young.  She was married at five years old (business is business, after all), orphaned at twelve, and widowed (maybe…no one is quite sure) at nineteen.  Throw in twins, an unfortunate incarceration, a cross-country manhunt, and a watery clue that seems practically insolvable and you have a mystery for the ages!  With the help of the glub blubs, Mrs. Carillon is quite sure that she’ll be able to find Leon (I mean Noel).

The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) is the perfect read for any young detective.  Raskin provides readers with plenty of clues along our heroine’s journey of finding her lost love.  While her Newberry Medal mystery The Westing Game can easily be enjoyed by older readers, this book is clearly written for a younger audience.  The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) provides pages and pages of slapstick fun and silly good humor.  It’s delightful in its utter absurdity and endearing in its over-the-top implausibility.  Readers are encouraged to sleuth along with Mrs. Carillon and her twins—Tina and Tony—and are helpful tips and hints make for a totally immersive reading experience.

Throughout Raskin’s book, Mrs. Carillon is forever searching for what she thought she wanted.  Endlessly chasing an idea that she thought she needed.  American author Meg Cabot—best known for The Princess Diaries—wrote “Sometimes what you want is right in front of you. All you have to do is open your eyes and see it.”  Ironically, it was only after Mrs. Carillon stopped chasing a dream that she was able to find her heart.

Rating: 4/5

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The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin

The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

Valerie Martin (Adult Historical Fiction)

A medical doctor and creator of the world-renowned detective Sherlock Holmes.  A journalist who describes herself as a seeker of frauds and spiritualist debunker.  A shy and gifted clairvoyant of extraordinary powers who many claim to be the genuine article.  All of these people are connected—it seems—by the merchant vessel Mary Celeste that was discovered adrift off the coast of Spain devoid of crew, but replete with questions…many, many questions.  Will the ghosts of the Mary Celeste ever find peace and will these three individuals play a part in their healing?

The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, from its onset, attempted a rather difficult feat by building an entire story around an unsolvable mystery.  Much like the Lost Colony of Roanoke, the only things that one can add to this ancient enigma are theories, speculations, hypotheses, and suppositions.  With that said, Martin gives us a story that is held together by the sheerest veil of it being about the doomed ghost ship.  Instead, readers are presented with multiple storylines that fail to reach any kind of reasonable conclusion and tend to spawn more questions than the Mary Celeste herself.  There are several scenes when the action takes place on the sea and the sailing vessel is enveloped in a thick shroud of fog.  That is how Martin’s story seemed to be—blindly inching along with no real direction and hoping for a break in the clouds to offer some semblance of light and order.

With its abrupt story shifts, numerous plot holes, and a tale that really doesn’t seem to have a point, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste seems doomed to aimlessly drift along while seeking solid ground—much like its namesake.  One could only imagine what this story would have been like if Martin chose to highlight Arthur Conan Doyle rather than spiritualism.  To look at this mystery through the eyes of one Sherlock Holmes—who famously said, “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”—we can probably assume that Mr. Holmes would not only have handily solved this case, but would have done so with enough time to make afternoon tea and biscuits.

Rating: 3/5

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