Sunday, August 28, 2016

Book Review - Mystery of the Haunted Pool by Phyllis A Whitney


Like many of the reviewers I first read Ms. Whitney as a young adult and was happy to find this copy and pick it up for some leisurely summer reading. I do take a bit of umbrage at the reviewers who try to paint this book with the social brush of today. Any work is a product of its times and should be judged in that context. To that end this book, which won an Edgar Award for juvenile mystery, is smooth, pleasant read. Ms. Whitney develops her characters well and paints an enchanting setting. It does deal with gender roles, disability, financial hard times, and aging, all from the lens of a young girl. Although there are clear gender roles (the women do all the food preparation, for example), that was the norm in 1960 to set it otherwise would have made it difficult to relate to the intended audience. However, there is nothing the protagonist, Susan, does not do or is prohibited from because she is a girl. Also Gene's disability is treated, again inside the context of the time, with compassion and empathy and some amount of empowerment. I am still looking for a copy of the first Whitney mystery I read, Mystery on the Isle of Skye. Whitney writes well and this mild read was a welcome change from the much more "in your face" work of more contemporary writers. Recommended if you want a quiet nostalgic well-written read.

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