Louisa and the Country Bachelor : A Louisa May Alcott Mystery (9781101547564)

Table of Contents
 
 
Praise for the
LOUISA MAY ALCOTT MYSTERY SERIES
Louisa and the Missing Heiress
“This thrilling mystery reads like one of Alcott's own ‘blood-and-thunder' tales. The colorful characters and long-held secrets will keep you guessing until the final page.”
—Kelly O'Connor McNees, author of
The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
 
“An adventure fit for Louisa May Alcott. A fine tribute to a legendary heroine.”
—Laura Joh Rowland, author of the Adventures of Charlotte Brontë series
 
“Your favorite author takes on a life of her own, and proves to be a smart, courageous sleuth.”
—Victoria Thompson, author of the Gaslight Mystery series
 
“Charming and clever amateur sleuth Louisa May Alcott springs to life.”
—Karen Harper, national bestselling author of
The Queen's Governess
“It was perhaps inevitable that Louisa May Alcott, the pseudonymous author of so many blood-and-thunder tales, would, herself, take up sleuthing. This tale of dark secrets, mysterious men, and heiresses in distress will please any reader who has longed to pursue Jo March's ‘sensation stories,' those lucrative tales that allowed Beth to go to the seashore, but of which the good Professor Bhaer so stoutly disapproved. As Jo herself might say, a thumping good read.”
—Joanne Dobson, author of
Death Without Tenure
 
“Maclean has a wonderful grasp of the history, language, and style of nineteenth-century Boston . . . enough plot twists to keep me entertained until the satisfying conclusion.”
—The Best Reviews
 
“This novel reveals that my great-great-aunt had a secret career that none of us knew about. It's great fun and a page-turner, and it uses the morals and mores of the time and place to delightful effect.”
—John Pratt, heir to the Alcott Estate
 
“A great debut that's appropriate for all ages.”
—
Mystery Scene
 
“Great fun. . . . Maclean has done a wonderful job of capturing Alcott's voice and style. . . . I suspect the real Alcott would have liked it and wished she had written it herself.”
—
Woman Writers Magazine
Louisa and the Country Bachelor
 
“Anna Maclean has created an entertaining period piece around Louisa May Alcott and her adventures as an amateur sleuth before she becomes a well-known author. . . . Those readers who enjoy mysteries set in the past, like the Irene Adler series, will want to add this series to the list of their must-reads.”
—Roundtable Reviews
 
Louisa and the Crystal Gazer
 
“In
Louisa and the Crystal Gazer
, Louisa continues to grow as a character.... This self-growth and self-awareness help keep the book from becoming simply another historical cozy. . . . By relying on her own personal strengths and those of family and friends, Louisa has the ability to find the criminal regardless of the circumstances.”
—Reviewing the Evidence
Other Louisa May Alcott Mysteries
Louisa and the Missing Heiress
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Published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin
Group (USA) Inc. Previously published in a Signet edition.
 
First Obsidian Printing, October 2011
ISBN : 978-1-101-54756-4
 
Copyright © Jeanne Mackin, 2005
Excerpt from
Louisa and the Crystal Gazer
copyright © Jeanne Mackin, 2004
All rights reserved
 
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FOR
 
CLARA IRENE CAMPFIELD,
 
FAVORITE AUNT
 
 
AND FELLOW MYSTERY LOVER
Dunreath Place
Roxbury, Massachusetts
March 1887
 
Gentle Readers,
It was the summer of 1855 when I first began to associate potato cellars with corpses. Dear. That does sound strange, doesn't it? Especially coming from the famous Miss Louisa May Alcott. But in 1855 I was still the unknown Louy Alcott and I was badly in need of wholesome air, sunshine, and serene days, having spent the previous Boston winter investigating the murder of my close friend Dorothy Wortham and being almost run over by carriages and threatened at knifepoint by a blackmailing valet.
I was twenty-two years old and that sad and dangerous winter had awakened in me pleasant childhood memories of Concord, of racing through meadows, climbing trees and spending entire days out-of-doors, reading and daydreaming—activities impossible to fulfill in the narrow lanes and busy streets of Boston. Moreover, I wished for more time and energy to write. I had sold two “blood and thunder” romance stories under a pen name and a collection of stories for children,
Flower Fables
, but I had a nagging sense of nonarrival, of not yet writing what was most important for me to write, what only Louisa Alcott could write. There was a name, Josephine, and an image of a tomboyish young woman surrounded by a loving but difficult family, but I had no more than that.
Little Women
was still quite a way from its conception.
I remembered that restless time again today, when Sylvia visited. She has grown plump with the years, and looking at her now, with her cane and her several chins and her strict schedule of naps, it is amusing to remember her as she was decades ago, lithe and eager for adventure, my companion in danger.
Perhaps her perceptions of me are similar. I am no longer the unknown, struggling authoress in her chilly and dark attic. I look a bit “the grande dame,” I fear, though my cuffs are still ink-stained.
When Sylvia arrived today she was carrying a package that had been waiting for me downstairs on the hall table.
“It's from London, Louy.” Sylvia gasped, breathing somewhat heavily from her climb up the stairs. She sat opposite me and leaned forward with such eagerness I thought she might open it herself. The brown package almost disappeared into the folds of her bright green plaid dress. Sylvia has buried two husbands, but refuses to wear black.
“London! Yes, I know the handwriting,” I said, taking the package. “It is from Fanny Kemble. Dear Fanny. There is a letter, and another volume of her memoirs.”
Fanny Kemble, if you are of that group that does not recall names easily, was, in her day, the finest Shakespearean actress on both sides of the Atlantic. She was one of the few of her profession who could play both wicked Lady Macbeth and girlish Juliet with wondrous credibility. To see Fanny onstage, wringing her hands and sobbing,
“Out, damned spot! out, I say . . . Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?” why, that was to know great acting. Especially when she gave us a private enactment of that scene, in Walpole, where there was indeed a considerable quantity of blood in the cellar.
She was a great friend of the family, and one of the joys of my girlhood was to see pretty Fanny standing behind Father, hands on hips or pointing at invisible causes, and perfectly mimicking his expressions and mouth movements as he earnestly expounded on his principles.
“Fanny visited you in Walpole, didn't she?” asked Sylvia, bringing me back to the present. “I think I remember her there, in that summer of ‘fifty-five. This morning I have been thinking of Walpole, and potatoes.”
I patted Sylvia's hand with great affection. Only a friend so old, so true, could say, “I have been thinking of potatoes,” and feel confident I would understand exactly what she meant.
“Yes,” I said, reaching for the scissors in my sewing basket. “When we had our little theater.” I cut the string and the brown paper fell away. On top of the volume (so new I could smell that wonderful fragrance of printer's ink!) was a likeness of Fanny. She looked much the same, except that like Sylvia her chins had multiplied and her hair looked unnaturally colored. I passed the photograph to Sylvia and a moment later the maid arrived with a tea tray. “Four lumps?” I asked Sylvia, picking up the sugar tongs.

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