Nothing buttoned-down about The Man From Brodney’s

As The Man From Brodney’s opens, “Taswell Skaggs was dead and once more remembered.”

Three law firms on two continents are fighting to win Skaggs’s fortune for their respective clients: Skaggs’s grandson, Robert Browne; his late partner’s granddaughter, Lady Agnes Deppingham; and the inhabitants of Japat, the South Sea island on which both men lived and died.

Small island in vast ocean.


The Man From Brodney’s by George Barr McCutcheon
Illus. Harrison Fisher. 1908 bestseller #9.
Project Gutenberg ebook #11572. My grade: B+.

To inherit, Browne and Lady Agnes must be man and wife a year from Skagg’s death.

Both are already married.

As the hopeful inheritors hasten to the island, American Hollingsworth Chase is kicked out of the Grand Duchy of Rapp-Thorberg: The man he struck for annoying Princess Genevra was her fiancé.

The parties of the two grandchildren are already in residence when the Brodney law firm’s agent representing Japat’s inhabitants arrives.

Brodney’s man is Hollingsworth Chase.

All that—and more—happens in just the first three chapters.

Although Skaggs’s will sounds crazy, it’s in keeping with his life. In fact, George Barr McCutcheon makes all the crazy things the characters do appear plausible for them in their circumstances.

McCutcheon keeps the story in high gear to the end with murder and mayhem, spies and sabotage, romance and retribution, and sprinkles it all with laugh-out-loud lines.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Lure of the Mask doesn’t last

The Lure of the Mask is a novel composed entirely of characters.

Readers must take them as Harold MacGrath drew them; their fascination never makes them believable people.

Lady in fancy evening dress lowers her mask and looks over her shoulder toward the reader.


The Lure of the Mask by Harold MacGrath
Illus. Harrison Fisher and Karl Anderson.
Bobbs-Merrill, 1908, 1908 bestseller #4
Project Gutenberg ebook #22158. My grade: B-.

Italian-born American John Hillard hears a woman singing in classical Italian at 1 a.m. in January. He’s so charmed that he places an ad in The Times asking her to contact him.

She responds. They correspond. The woman refuses to reveal any personal details.

Finally she agrees to meet.

Hillard is blindfolded, brought to a home that seems familiar.

The lady is masked.

Hillard knows no more about her afterward than before.

Unable to locate the woman with whom he is infatuated, Hillard agrees to take his friend Dan Merrihew to Italy, where both can recover from the loss of their loves—or find them again.

They are accompanied by Giovanni, Hillard’s servant, who hopes his 7-year absence will have lessened the interest of the police in arresting him so he can finish the murder he botched earlier.

MacGrath’s complicated story is well-plotted and remains unresolved until the last page.

The Lure will catch and hold you for an entire evening.

You’ll be released untouched at bedtime.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Little French Girl Is Exquisitely Bi-cultural

Jacket of novel The Little French Girl
The Little French Girl is a novel that needs to be peeled, layer by layer, like a sweet onion. Reading it requires alertness and either some French or a good French dictionary.

The story opens with Alix Vervier being met at Victoria Station by Giles Owen. Madame Vervier, presuming on a war-time acquaintance with Giles’ deceased brother, has sent Alix to England to find a suitable marriage partner.

At 15, Alix has childish innocence at odds with her acute perceptivity. She immediately likes Giles and the late Capt. Owen’s fiancée, Topee.

The rest of the noisy, sports crazy Owen family take some getting used to.

The novel follows Alix as she tries to be an obedient French daughter without offending her English hosts who find the idea of a parent arranging a child’s marriage unthinkable.

A summary can’t do this exquisite, lavendar-gray novel justice. Anne Douglas Sedgwick makes Alix’s growth from precocious teen to sensitive adult unfold as naturally as a flower coming into bloom, even though the growth process is painful for Alix, her French family, and her English hosts.

The Little French Girl
By Anne Douglas Sedgwick
Grosset & Dunlap, 1924
508 pages
1924 bestseller #3
My grade: A-

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni