Thursday, May 1, 2014

Book Review: The White Rabbit Mysteries

The White Rabbit Mysteries
***
by Melissa Davies

In the very first (short) chapter of this book, we are taken back to the year 1895, and a meeting between a man by name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and his solicitor.

In the second chapter we’re back in our own time and meet Lara Liddell, a young woman in her mid twenties whose world has recently been turned upside-down: Her grandfather recently died, and her father had an accident and is in hospital with a coma (and no income to pay the bills). Lara herself has a low-income job, and has had to let their house and move into a small, dull flat on her own. She is depressed, worried about economy and the future, and feels she’s hardly got a friend left in the world – except perhaps one, another girl at her place of work.

Going through her grandfather’s papers, Lara finds an old document with a mysterious poem that includes a hint to some sort of treasure hunt; and with a series of numbers written underneath.

With a bit of help from her friend, Lara manages to figure out what the numbers might refer to; but even though this leads her to find “something”, that object in itself can hardly be called a treasure; and the point of it all is still a mystery.

Then a letter arrives, signed “The White Rabbit”…

Because names are given already in the first two chapters, and there are such obvious clues in the very title and cover of the book, it’s hardly a spoiler (not for adult readers, anyway!) to reveal that it turns out Lara is a descendant or relative of Alice Liddell – the girl who inspired Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, to write Alice in Wonderland. This much, Lara soon figures out for herself. (And for me, the hints to an Alice-related mystery was what made me download the book in the first place.)

The story gives an impression of being written with teen (or even pre-teen) readers in mind; and for young readers who read Alice in Wonderland without knowing much about the author, I’m sure this can prove a fun way of finding out a little bit more.

For myself I found The White Rabbit Mysteries an easy and also rather enjoyable read; but at the same time I could not help thinking that the narrative did have a number of weaknesses. For one thing, I think it would have made a better book if it had been somewhat less “straight forward” in style, and left a bit more for the reader to guess at. It also seems to me that Lara somehow come across as younger than she is  stated to be; and that goes for the other characters of the same age as well. Which makes me wonder if maybe the author originally started out imagining them as younger, but ended up changing their age to give them more freedom to ‘roam about’ (as is needed to make other aspects of the story work).

I don’t know anything about the author, Melissa Davies. She might be a young author herself, in which case I think she might benefit from the help of a good editor.

I came across this book for free back in the autumn (for Kindle), but I see it is still sold quite cheap: $1.64 at amazon.com. At that price, if you are a fan of Alice and Lewis Carroll, and enjoy YA mysteries in general, you may find it worth having a look at.

I did get interested enough by her basic “idea” in this book to decide to also try another title by her (sold at the same cheap price), The Song of the Mermaid. Remains to be seen if that one will give me the same kind of impression.

5 comments:

  1. As soon as I saw the Dodgson and Liddell names, I knew where this was going. He took several nude pictures of "Alice" and there have been rumors for many years. One thing is certain...that he really liked little girls.

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  2. Well, that's as may be - but this book has really nothing to do with any 'improper' kind of secrets or rumours. There's no bad language in it either. For adult readers who more seriously want to know more about Lewis Carroll I'd recommend Jenny Wolf's The Mystery of Lewis Carroll - I've not finished that one yet so therefore haven't reviewed it. But I liked the half of it that I've read. She takes the standpoint, I think, that his photography etc has to be regarded from the point of view of his own time rather than ours.)

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  3. Another example of how important good editing is to turn a good idea into a good book. As you say, it sounds all rather obvious, and that is even without you giving out much information. It sounds like Melissa Davies is still rather young herself, and I am looking forward to finding out about her second book you have downloaded.

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  4. Interesting premise for a book.

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  5. It is an interesting premise, I was looking for a good mystery as that is what I am into right now as far as genres go. Been reading Mell Corcorans Shadows of Doubt, wanting to read Shadows of Deceit but I like to read a different author in between. I recommend Corcoran's work though, it's a great read, mellcorcoran.com is her site, books info there. Great review on this one, I am definitely going to give it a closer look!

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