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The Nightmare: A Mystery with Mary…

The Nightmare: A Mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft

by Nancy Means Wright

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In 1781, Mary Wollstonecraft has just published her Vindications of the Rights of Women and is active with the men and women of intellectual London. This crowd includes erotic painter Henry Fuseli, with whom Mary is obsessed. When Fuseli's masterpiece, The Nightmare, is stolen, Fuseli blames minor artist Roger Peale and has him arrested. Mary doubts Peale's guilt, and Peale's fiancee turns to Mary for help, but Mary's obsession with Fuseli hampers her ability to think straight. When fellow intellectual and bluestocking Isobel Frothingham is murdered, her dead body arranged in The Nightmare's tableau, and found by Mary's maid, Mary wonders if there is a connection between the theft and the murder.
Wright captures the character of intellectual London brilliantly. These writers, artists and French revolutionaries are passionate idealists, but they lack common sense. With their heads in the clouds trying to unravel the grand philosophical knots plaguing mankind, they stumble into the mud puddles at their feet. Obsessed with trying to change her sexual attraction to Fuseli into an intellectual ideal, Mary hardly pays any mind to the crimes of the story, making her a bizarre yet intriguing sleuth. When she helps to solve the mystery, it is almost as an after-thought: save France from its corrupt royalty, demand equal rights for women, discover murderer and avoid being killed . . . .
Devotes to the murder mystery genre might be frustrated by the lack of focus characters show to solving the crimes, yet I found Mary's scatter-brained intellectualism charming. I appreciate Wright's ability to model her fictional Mary Wollstonecraft with the clay of the historical person, keeping her personality and foibles and not pretending that when faced with a murder she would suddenly become Sherlock Holmes. ( )
  elizabethcfelt | May 15, 2017 |
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"Dismissed from her governess post in Ireland, Mary Wollstonecraft lands on her feet in London. After the 1792 publication of her ground-breaking 'Vindication of the Rights of Woman' she gains entrée to a circle of celebrated artists and intellectuals. But Mary falls into obsession and infatuation with painter Henry Fuseli after his hauntingly erotic masterpiece 'The Nightmare' is stolen. When a young artist is wrongfully accused and imprisoned, and a bluestocking friend is strangled, Mary's passionate nature does not allow her to stand aside. Her quest for the truth will lead her into personal notoriety, a trip to a madhouse, and confrontations with more than one possible murderer."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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