Title: Secret Letters
Author: Leah Scheier
Publication Date: June, 2012
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction-Mystery/Novel
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.
Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this gripping novel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice in young adult literature.
What I Think: I am a big fan of twists on classic stories, fairy tales, etc. and this one was quite an interesting one. Dora is an orphaned, young lady who is trying to learn more about her past, so she goes searching for her biological father, Sherlock Holmes, only to find he is dead. But do not worry, Dora has her father's deductive genes which we learn quickly when she goes to another detective to help her solve her cousin's mystery. It is through this random meeting that mystery that becomes Secret Letters comes to light.
My favorite part of this book is Dora. She is a strong, clever female character in a time when females were not supposed to be any of the such. On top of all this, she is observant, like her father, so her deductive reasoning skills are something to be jealous of. AND she is snarky. I love snarky girl characters mostly when it is exactly what they aren't supposed to be.
Now, Peter Cartwright is not anything to shake your head at either. He sees that Dora is exactly the detective he needs to solve the mystery he is in charge of and puts faith into a woman when his senior partner shunned her. It is because of Peter that Dora gets to even be a detective.
Read Together: Grades 9 and up
Read Alone: Grades 9 and up
Read With: Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens
Snatch of Text: "I really should have ended there. But I had discovered more about him, and he was staring at me now with such a look of baffled rage that I could not stop myself. "You were critical of my cousin from the first!" I continued furiously. "Why did you judge her like that and turn away? She never injured you. And yet the story of her old romance obviously upset you so much that you could not speak to her impartially. I wonder why? could it have something to do with the fresh imprint of the missing wedding bad upon your finger? You took the ring off less than a year ago, judging by the fair strip of skin above your knuckle. And yet, sadly, you aren't wearing mourning. I am very sorry for you, sir, and because I am not blind, or innocence, I will conclude that you are a good man who is very angry at some other lady who has badly wronged him."
I had never experienced a silence like the one that followed that declaration." (p. 46-47)
Mentor Text for: Allusion, Deductive Reasoning, Dialogue, Snarky Humor
Writing Prompts: Read a Sherlock Holmes story and show how the plot arc, characters, deductive reasoning, and mystery are similar and/or different between the story and Secret Letters.
Topics Covered: Sherlock Holmes, Illicit Love, Deductive Reasoning, Writing in Code, Strong Woman Protagonist, Family, Victorian England
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