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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mollie Peer - Van Reid

Read for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Mollie Peer is the second in a series of books set in late 19th century Maine, about the Moosepath League, five men who somehow manage to stumble into grand adventures.

Mollie Peer is a reporter for the Portland Argus, relegated to the society column because she’s a woman. She’s constantly on the lookout for a great story that will prove her worth to her editor. One day at the docks, she sees a small boy being knocked around by an older man, and determines to investigate. Around at the same time is Wyckford O’Hearn, star hitter for the Portland Bantams baseball team, and Mollie more or less tricks Wyck (trust me, this makes more sense when you read it) into kidnapping the little boy, named Bird. It turns out Bird’s current guardians are into some rather shady things, and want Bird back, to make sure he doesn’t share what he’s seen.

Into this story comes the members of the Moosepath League, made up of three bumbling gentlemen, and their leader, Mr. Walton, who fortunately has a great deal more sense than the rest of the group. Mr. Walton has gone on a trip to Hallowell, with adventures along the way, and while he’s gone, the other members of the League get themselves embroiled in Bird’s future.

If this sounds overly complicated, it’s because there are numerous storylines floating around in this book, which amazingly manage to meld into one by the end. It’s a bit hard at times to keep track of all that’s going on, but it’s satisfactorily resolved by the end, except for the one piece of the story that’s left for the next book.

The main source of fun in this story for me, as a Mainer, is the slice of life in my state. A good deal of the action takes place in Portland, and it’s funny how different, and yet similar the feeling of the town is. The other thing that struck me is the effort involved for travel in those days. A trip up to Bath, which I’ve done as a quick part of a day trip, involved a day’s train ride from Portland. I pass through Hallowell on the turnpike when heading north on the three hour trip to see my father in Ellsworth, and Hallowell is merely a blip in the early part of my trip. It is interesting to be reminded of how much I take for granted in this day and age.

The pace of these books is a bit frantic, and I suspect I wouldn’t enjoy them so much if I wasn’t able to enjoy the Maine references in the midst of it all. I’d be curious to see what someone without the Maine point of reference thinks about this book.

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