Jordan Stratford has taken a neat idea—young Mary Shelley and young Ada Lovelace team up to solve mysteries—and crafted a juvenile adventure story that's so much fun, it threatens to burst out of the book jacket and shoot off the pages like a cannon ball.
The year is 1826. Fourteen-year-old Mary Godwin, the sensitive and curious daughter of feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and free thinker William Godwin, is beginning her tutelage alongside the brilliant but temperamental and eccentric 11-year-old Lady Ada Byron, daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron. Their tutor is the young, handsome Peebs, who is clearly hiding something about his past. When the girls get restless, stifled by the limited avenues available to the women of the time, they decide to put their minds to work by forming a detective agency. They're soon contacted by their first client, a young woman looking to clear the name of her maid, who has confessed to a crime she didn't commit, and Mary and Ada are plunged headfirst into a fast-paced, thrilling mystery.
Stratford gleefully plays with the clichés and tropes of Victorian thrillers and adventures, while confronting the sexism of the time and giving today's girls (and boys) a pair of inspirational role models. Stratford's not above tweaking history for the sake of a good story while also providing notes on what really happened at the time, and his stew of historical and literary references will hopefully turn children on to the poetry of Lord Byron and Percy Blythe Shelley, the novels of Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, and Wilkie Collins, and the subjects of mathematics, computer programming, engineering, and history.
The Case of the Missing Moonstone is the first in The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series, with a second on the way. Let's hope there are many more to come.