I have always loved learning about 19th century England, and reading stories set in that era. So, when I saw The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, my interest was piqued. Subtitled The Case of the Missing Moonstone, this is the first entry in a planned series written by Jordan Stratford and illustrated by Kelly Murphy.
The story is set in 1826, and it begins with a young girl named Mary traveling to a grand house to study with the young occupant of said house- a young girl named Ada. Lady Ada is three years younger, but Mary quickly learns that her new friend is very intelligent. The girls form the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, and they receive a request from a debutante who wants assistance with recovering a stolen jewel. The lady’s maid has confessed to the crime, but the debutante insists that the maid is innocent. Is she innocent? Can Lady Ada and Mary track down the real culprit?
The conceit here is that many of the characters are fictionalized versions of real people. Lady Ada is Ada Lovelace, whose father was Lord Byron- the famous poet. Lady Ada was absolutely brilliant, and is considered to be one of the first computer programmers. Mary was Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein. Stratford has manipulated the passage of time to place Lady Ada and Mary as peers; in reality, the age gap was much larger. There are also several other characters who played a prominent role in the nineteenth century world, but to say any more would run the risk of giving away spoilers! The target audience is likely unfamiliar with many of these figures, but background information is provided at the end of the book.
The result of this historical mashup is nothing less than magical. Stratford is a talented writer with a wry sense of humor that I absolutely fell in love with. This is such a clever and witty book. Lady Ada and Mary have such a good rapport. At the beginning of the book, Lady Ada demonstrates that she is highly intelligent, but quite unsocialized. She is not used to being around other people, especially not other children. Having a friend helps her open up and connect with other people.
I would absolutely recommend The Case of the Missing Moonstone. Although the target audience is middle grade readers, I found this mystery to be clever and well written. The illustrations by Kelly Murphy truly capture the absurdity of the story. I am definitely looking forward to the next entry in this delightful series!