Thursday, September 13, 2012

Double Thorsday Book Review, c. 1910

This week's Thorsday book reviews both involve 1910; one was a real book, and one was a Kindle book (but also available in real book format).

Mary Roberts Rhinehart
copyright 1910

Attorney Jack Knox is a 35 year old bachelor attorney.  One day, the daughter of Allan Fleming, a corrupt politician, walked into Jack's office to hire him to find her father.  The only family she had was a pair of elderly spinster aunts, and Jack implored Miss Fleming to go stay with them while he searched for her father.  While she was at her aunts' house, and Jack was there to guard them lest the threat against Mr. Fleming be extended to his daughter, with whom Jack was smitten, Aunt Jane disappeared, along with several valuable pearls which had been in her sister's safe.  This story turns around a couple of times; Jack is warned against intervening in this case, and more corrupt city officials are drawn into the fray.  The White Cat is a social club to which Allan Fleming and others belonged, and which Jack ultimately suspects may have something to do with the case.  In addition to being a good mystery, again, I found it entertaining to note the differences between life in 1910 and today.  Available for free on Kindle, if you want to read it, and probably free for the Nook, too.  4/5.

by Robert Kerr
Copyright 2009

Joe and Linda Murphy live in Marshalltown, Iowa with their 3 children in a 1908 Victorian house which they completely restored, down to having the front door, which had been replaced but was found behind the furnace in the basement, repaired for rehanging.  Linda went all out on this restoration, furnishing the house with antiques down to the china, a mannequin dressed in 1909 garb gracing one corner of the bedroom, and framed valueless stock certificates dating to around 1900.  When the story begins, Joe has just picked up the restored front door, and hangs it.  However, since they don't have the original skeleton key to this door, they left it unlocked and ajar that night.  At midnight that night in June 2009, several members of the family heard the door slam shut, presumably blown closed.  When they arose the next morning, Joe discovered that things were different when he went outside for his morning newspaper; he thought the date of June 1909 was a joke, and chased away the milkman, thinking the guy was trying to pull a trick on him.  Ultimately, after looking out windows and realizing that the mature trees they were accustomed to seeing between the house and the courthouse were just small, and they came to realize that they had indeed been transported back to 1909.  The family cashes in one stock certificate  to buy 1909 style clothing and tries in vain to be returned to 2009.  Ultimately, after becoming friendly with Dr. Fischer next door, and his housekeeper, Mrs. Clarke, they settle down to life in 1909, and gradually conclude that they've been sent to prevent some occurrence.  This was a good story; I did enjoy the family's realization that nothing was terribly different between 1909 and 2009, other than electronic entertainment, and the reaction of the 16 year old daughter and 14 year old son to high school 100 years before their time (they were stupidly emphasizing penmanship and grammar, for instance).  If you choose to read this book, pay close attention to the first part of the first chapter; it is key to understanding the last chapter.  The biggest problem that I had with this book is that in 1909 houses did not have skeleton keys on their entry locks:

This is my entry door from 1923, and it's the same handle/lock as on houses from 1909 (We have considered buying houses from that era)(and, no, I don't do well at polishing my brass hardware; the green patina adds character).  But I suppose the author had to have something odd about the door to aid in causing the family to be transported back in time, and they didn't make a big deal of the whole issue, other than noting that the key didn't exist (they replaced the key when they got to 1909).  Overall, a fast and fun read; 4/5

Happy Thorsday, everyone!


STELLA and RORY from Down Under said...

Thanks Marjie, they both sound entertaining but the second one attracts me. I love a book about time travel. Hope your weekend is a good one. No worries, and love, Carol

Claire S. said...

aha - just took a quick peek online to see Mary Roberts Rinehart has LOTS of freebies for downloading...including Man in the Lower Ten which you reviewed a while ago and I forgot I downloaded. I see lots of good reading coming up :-)

Pam said...

These both sound good!

Sue said...

Just Googled skeleton keys. They started in colonial days and were still in common usage till the 1940s. My Mom 's house, built prior to the Civil War used them in all the doors.

Pam said...

Both sound like good books but the second one really has me intrigued... what would it be like to go back in time. Hmmmm.

SissySees said...

They sound right up my alley! Off to download... because I need two more potential reads in my ever-expanding e-library.