Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Mysteries of Maisie Hitchins, Book 3 - The Case of the Phantom Cat

It is books like this that make me ask - what in the world is Simon & Schuster thinking with the publication of the current Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series?!?  How could it be possible that a mystery book aimed at children ages 7 to 10 could be written at a level higher than that of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, which should be aimed at pre-teens?  Or am I simply re-living my days of yester-year, when the publishers of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Dana Girls, and the like actually cared about the product they put on the shelves.

Regardless, Holly Webb (another British author, whose series of books are making their way into American readers' hands) has an enjoyable little series going on here, with a quick-thinking, albeit very youthful, detective.  Maisie Hitchins may be a servant girl in her grandmother's boarding house ... and she may live in a small room in the basement ... and she may not have a tutored education that her friend, Alice Lacey has ... but Maisie is always one step ahead of everyone else when it comes to solving mysteries!

First, she helped the butcher's boy, George, when he was accused of stealing from the cash register, and then she helped recover an actress' stolen emerald necklace.  Now, when she accompanies her friend Alice to a country estate, where Alice is being sent to recuperate from an illness, Maisie must find out who - or WHAT - is haunting the halls of Wisteria Lodge.  The horrific smell coming from under the library floor. The terrifying screeching that echoes through the halls.  And the spectral white cat that appears and disappears from room to room.  The few staff hired to help are scared out of their wits and leave Alice and Maisie to fend for themselves (as Alice's tutor, Miss Sidebotham, is pretty much useless and has nothing but disdain for the staff, including Maisie).  So, it's up to Maisie to get to the bottom of things before Alice calls her father to bring them back home (and just when Maisie was enjoying some time away from the cleaning chores and the basement bedroom!).

All three books in this series, so far, have been entertaining reads, and while definitely aimed at the younger audience, it doesn't make them any less enjoyable.  Trust me, I've read some books aimed at adults that didn't flow as smoothly, nor have as good characterization as these books do!  There are two more books in the series listed on Amazon, but I certainly hope that's not the end of the series - today's children need books like this, not only to spark their interest in reading, but to teach writing and grammar skills that seem to be lacking in today's society!

RATING:  9 screaming magpies out of 10 for keeping my faith alive that there might still be children's mysteries out there that aren't "dumbed down" for their readers.

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