Monday, October 3, 2016

Middle Sister's September Reads

September is still summer out here in the desert, so instead, I indulged in a little autumnal reading and dreaming.

Pumpkin Picking with Murder by Auralee Wallace I read the first in this series a few months ago and enjoyed it, so what better way to dream of fall than with a book with pumpkin picking in the title? As so often happens, the second in the series does not quite live up to the first. The 'madcap' adventures are there, but instead of reading as completely random and therefore funny, they read as forced and deliberate. Erica is again visiting her mother at Otter Lake, and while her mother utters only 3 or 4 words throughout most of the book, hers is a funnier and more engaging presence than the voluble Erica. Freddie is a caricature of the Freddie that was funny the first time around. The story centers around the twins, and their characters have not developed at all, despite the murder mystery centering around them and glimpses into their past. The motivation for the murders was believable; the involvement of the twins in the murders, less so.The evolution of secondary character Rhonda Cooke was the highlight. I'd give this one a C--everything seems more forced, and that's never fun to read.

George Washington's Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger Popular version based on an older, thoroughly researched book written by a historian that traces the development and activities of a New York City and Long Island-based spy ring that assisted George Washington during the Revolution War (in other words, this is not the product of original research). This little known aspect of Revolutionary War history was important to local NYC-focused military activities, and it was only recently that, by happenstance, the leader of the spy ring was identified. I love that a secret could have been kept that long, and that the spies themselves did not try to profit from their activities after the War ended. What I found most intriguing was Agent 355, a woman, presumably in NYC and presumably of high social rank (as the information she passed on was obtained from officers and probably during parties), whose identity remains a secret. In a brief paragraph, the authors conclude that she probably died on a prison ship that sat in New York Harbor. I disagree. We have enough diaries and memoirs and information from that time that if a socially prominent woman had been arrested and imprisoned on a ship, someone would have recorded it. I think it far more likely that she ceased operations when the situation was too dangerous, and then the usefulness of the spy ring ended, and she went on to live her life quietly, as most 18th century women did, or that she may have died of typhoid or childbirth. Anonymous women like prostitutes and washerwomen may have been able to die on the prison ship without anyone knowing or recording their loss; but a woman prominent enough to obtain this kind of information? Nope. History light and definitely geared to public consumption, but a good bibliography is included.