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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Case of the Girl in Grey

Jordan Stratford

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To purchase The Case of the Girl in Grey

Title: The Case of the Girl in Grey
Author: Jordan Stratford
Genre: Novel
Written: 2016
Length: 204 pages
Availability: The Case of the Girl in Grey - US
The Case of the Girl in Grey - UK
The Case of the Girl in Grey - Canada
The Case of the Girl in Grey - India
  • The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, Book 2
  • With illustrations by Kelly Murphy

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Our Assessment:

B : the mystery/solving a bit rushed, but the filler fun

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Kirkus Reviews . 1/11/2015 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Itís a shame that Stratford has built his novel on such a heap of lies, as itís not otherwise a bad book. (...) A tragically flawed premise results in a lamentable waste of excellent writing." - Kirkus Reviews

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In the first in the series, The Case of the Missing Moonstone, author Jordan Stratford brought together -- in a temporal sleight of hand -- historical figures Ada Byron (later Lovelace) and Mary Godwin (later Shelley) as young girls, eleven and fourteen, respectively, who found The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency. In this volume their adventures continue -- now joined by Ada's younger half-sister, Allegra, and Mary's step-sister, Jane. Stratford continues playing fast and loose with his use of real-life figures -- reminding readers in his Preface that, in fact: "Mary and Ada were eighteen years apart in age, not three, as they are in the world of Wollstonecraft", but only slipping into the biographical Notes at the end of the book the mention that, while both Allegra and Jane are also based on actual figures, not only did the real Clara Allegra Byron in fact die at age five (Stratford prolongs her life for his purposes) but Mary's step-sister Clara Mary Jane Clairmont -- the Jane of this book -- was in (historical) fact Allegra's mother. For readers who respect history, these liberties with dates and lives/life-spans can be an awful lot to try to wrap their heads around .....
       Shelley and Dickens also reprise their roles -- the one the girls' tutor, the other the coach-riding friend and helper, though Stratford is a bit hard-pressed to given them much of a role here (beyond Mary learning more about Shelley, including that he is a benefactor of her family). And William Hazlitt has a cameo appearance, too.
       Here the story has the carriage carrying Mary, along with Jane and Charles, nearly run over a mysterious 'girl in grey' one morning. The ghostly figure flees before Mary can find out much about her -- beyond that she is troubled. The mystery-woman turns out to bear a striking resemblance to Lizzie, the young woman at the center of what becomes the second case of the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency. The case is brought to them by Mary Somerville -- another historical figure --, who enlists the girls for help concerning her distant relative, an orphaned girl who is to be married off to a Sir Caleb Gulpidge. Something doesn't smell right about the arrangement -- especially in the form of a Mr. Brocklehurst, who seems to be forcing the issue -- and who even asks Lizzie to sign over her fortune (a sizable inheritance) to Sir Caleb before they even get married. The request is, of course, highly suspicious; after all, Sir Caleb would get control of the money soon enough, when they are married.
       The mystery itself is straight out of Wilkie Collins, with many of the traditional Victorian trappings, from a long-lost twin sister to a nefarious plot (with several variations, no less -- the criminals are quick in adapting to circumstances) to lay claim to Lizzie's wealth. There is a code to break, and old records to scour -- and, as so often in Victorian fiction, it is the inability to directly communicate with the relevant people (because they are kept out of reach, in hiding, or are ill) that delays the truth finally being revealed.
       Their first case saw the girls infiltrate Newgate prison, while in this one it is the lunatic ward of a hospital they have to fool their way into -- the apparently obligatory foray into an intimidating adult sphere that, like almost everything in the book, is (too) quickly dealt with. Beyond that Stratford uses even the limited locales (the fancy residences, a family crypt) well, even as the girls must make do, for now, without Ada's balloon.
       There's not all that much mystery here, and the solution (or confirmation of what is going on) is rather quickly and easily revealed to the girls (not that that's quite enough to resolve matters); the more complicated details allow for a bit more story-padding. Most of the fun of The Case of the Girl in Grey, however, is in the incidental, such as Ada's attempts to act appropriately when in the company of others, or the (semi-)sibling rivalries. It is all a bit crowded and rushed -- rather too much packed in --, which is a shame, because the padding part is really quite entertaining.
       (Aimed at younger audiences, there are a few scenes that seem rather ill-advised -- notably the cartoonish opening one, in which Ada and Allegra go after one another with an iron shovel and a fire poker, and another one in which the girls are literally playing with fire.)
       Stratford has a nice touch with the dialogue and descriptions, and does well with both the humorous and serious scenes; it's only the mystery itself that feels a bit flat and almost perfunctory -- though in fact more exposition and padding would be welcome across the board in the book. The disorienting historical/biographical inaccuracies aside, The Case of the Girl in Grey is an enjoyable, if a bit crowded and rushed read -- even if the mystery isn't particularly mysterious or central.

- M.A.Orthofer, 9 February 2016

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The Case of the Girl in Grey: Reviews: Jordan Stratford: Other books in The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency-series under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Jordan Stratford is a Canadian author.

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