Author: Leah Scheier
Genre: Historical Fiction YA, Mystery
Publisher: Hyperion Book Children’s
Release date: June 26, 2012
Challenge: Debut Author Challenge, YA Historical Fiction Challenge
Source: DAC ARC Tour
Summary: Inquisitive and observant, Dora dreams of escaping her aristocratic country life to solve mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes. So when she learns that the legendary detective might be her biological father, Dora jumps on the opportunity to travel to London and enlist his help in solving the mystery of her cousin’s ransomed love letters. But Dora arrives in London to devastating news: Sherlock Holmes is dead. Her dreams dashed, Dora is left to rely on her wits–and the assistance of an attractive yet enigmatic young detective–to save her cousin’s reputation and help rescue a kidnapped heiress along the way.
I was really excited to read SECRET LETTERS by Leah Scheier, friends. A debut historical fiction mystery with Sherlock Holmes ties? Why, yes please. Don’t mind if I do. I’m trying to read more historical fiction this year, guys, and to be honest, it’s slower going than I would like. I’ve read some good ones, though, and SECRET LETTERS was a great, solid read that set up what I think is going to be a pretty legit new series. It wasn’t anything that will blow people’s minds, but I’d read a book by Leah Scheier any day. She has a knack for solid storytelling.
The centerpiece of SECRET LETTERS is, of course, Dora. There’s no doubt that she can carry a story on her shoulders. She’s a great character, with lots of personality and fire and smarts. I really enjoyed reading about Dora and her quick wit and sharp attention to detail, and I very much appreciated her gumption. She didn’t want anyone doing her any favors, but she certainly didn’t want to give up her dream of meeting her father, Sherlock Holmes, and carrying on his legacy as ace private detective. Dora bristles at people not giving her credit as an investigator because she’s a girl. Guys, she gets FED UP pretty easily/quickly. It was awesome. Huzzah for a A+ character!
Of course, one of the people Dora doesn’t want any special treatment from is Peter, an apprentice investigator who works for the MAIN investigator working this case. (FYI, the case in SECRET LETTERS involves a kidnapped/missing daughter of a very prominent, wealthy man. There’s OBVIOUS shenanigans going on with the family and perhaps some of their servants, so Dora and Peter agree–eventually–that the only way to know WTF is going on is to set Dora up as a fake servant on the estate.) Anyway, PETER. He’s a charmer, friends. I quite liked him. He’s got secrets, although they weren’t anything difficult to puzzle out. Still, he treated Dora with respect, took her ideas about the case seriously, and trusted her judgement. He has a little bit of the overprotective problem going on, but I’ll forgive it because he’s got that CHARISMA. Leah Scheier made a good one, friends. There’s CLEARLY more action to be had between Dora and Peter because not much goes on in SECRET LETTERS, and I’m looking forward to it. Anticipation, y’all!
And yo, one of my FAVORITE aspects of SECRET LETTERS by Leah Scheier was the upstairs/downstairs vibe. When Dora goes to the manor house to basically snoop around and snag information about the disappearance of Lord Hatfield’s daughter, it was like reading Downtown Abbey. Dora is TOTALLY Lady Mary and Peter is SO Matthew. There’s even a servant who completely reminded me of Ethel, or even the maid from season 1 who left at the end to get an office job. The atmosphere in the house and amongst the servants was great, and was definitely a strength of the book. Victorian England was represented well here.
I have to say, too, that there was perhaps a hint at an overarching unsolved mystery that comes up at the very end of SECRET LETTERS that made me SUPER excited. I’m probably just jumping to conclusions, because I do that sometimes. I hope not, though. Because let me tell you: it would be pretty freaking outstanding if this unsolved mystery actually became THE mystery that Dora and Peter have to solve together. Because guys? IT’S PERSONAL. And that is when things get AWESOME.
One thing that I’d point out about SECRET LETTERS? There’s not so much of the Sherlock angle. He is dead before the book starts, after all, and really, Dora is meant to shine here. So his absence was just fine for me. And Watson makes an appearance as well, although not necessarily by name, so if you don’t know that Watson is a doctor, you might not realize that you’ve just met him near the end. But It was a nice little taste for me.
Guys, I really enjoyed SECRET LETTERS by Leah Scheier. The mystery was good, although not AMAZING, and the pacing was great. I don’t know that people wont be able to figure out the bad guy ahead of time, but it was still an enjoyable ride. The real stand-outs were Dora and Peter, two kind of screwed-up young people: Dora has just found out that she is the illegitimate daughter of a now-dead man, and Peter has his own demons. They bond over the mysteries they solve together, as equals, and it was fun. When I found out that Leah Scheier is indeed writing another book to follow SECRET LETTERS, I got all excited because I can’t wait to see where things go from here.