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The Drollery Letters Number One: The Case of…

The Drollery Letters Number One: The Case of the Devil's Interval

by Emily Butler

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It is the year 1784 and Josephine Drollery is writing to a publisher because someone else has written an account of her adventures full of errors and she will now set the record straight. Thirty years ago, her life was a pretty good one – that is, until her parent’s dinner party where everyone including Josephine were murdered. Now, Josephine is a ghost with a mission – she is determined to discover the murderer(s) and bring them to justice. With the aid of two orphaned African American cousins, a Harvard Professor who, though dead, continues to teach, and a fraudulent spiritualist known as The Great Montesquieu who is a bit disconcerted to discover a real ghost contacting him. But before she can solve the murders, she must first learn the skills of being a ghost.

The Drollery Letters Number one: The Devil’s Interval by author Emily Butler is aimed at a Middle Grade audience and is definitely not your typical ghost story. It is more historical mystery with ghost and just a touch of steam punk thrown in so don’t expect any frights or chills. It is, however, a fun fast read – Josephine is spunky, her friends are an interesting lot and there’s plenty of humour to keep the reader engaged. ( )
  lostinalibrary | Sep 27, 2015 |
I don’t know if it’s always been the case, but I feel as if I’ve seen a lot of books lately published as “volume one” in a series, which leaves me curious. Was the novel so good that the publisher immediately contracted for more? Was the author expressing a sort of writer’s optimism? Whatever the reason, I’ve just finished a book for grade school-aged (more or less) readers that I’m glad to see is presented as volume one in a series: Emily H. Butler’s The Case of the Devil’s Interval, the first volume in The Drollery Letters.

The central character here is Josephine Drollery and the novel is set in 1784, in the newly independent U.S.—but if you’re expecting something American Girl-ish, you’re in for a surprise. The book is a sort of historical, humor, paranormal, slightly steam punk mash-up. Josephine is a brand-new ghost trying to solve her own murder with the help of a fraudulent spiritualist, who styles himself as “The Great Montesquieu,” a pair of orphaned African-American cousins, who trade odd jobs in a tavern for the privilege of sleeping in the stables, and a dead-but-still-teaching Harvard professor in the Study of Every Known Scientific Principle.

Josephine is livid because the great Montesquieu has begun publishing the cases they’ve worked on—without giving her any credit! So she’s penning her version of the story and sending it Montequieu’s publisher, with whom she is equally miffed: “I do not wish to mince words, you great nitwit. But if stupidity were contagious, you would be the plague. If it were candy, you’d be a sugar-dusted nut ball.”

While Josephine is tracking her killer (and she’s not the only victim), she’s facing additional challenges. The first of these is learning to be a ghost. Even the lightest material objects, for example, are impossibly heavy for a ghost to lift: “A candle was a luxury in those days, one that my friends couldn’t afford and that I couldn’t carry.” The second is evading a pair of Harvard paranormal researchers who are the Revolutionary-era equivalent of ghost busters. (The equipment they use is where the steam punk comes in.)

Dead or alive, Josephine is a remarkable girl, full of imagination and gumption. She refers to the nursery where she sleeps as the crow’s nest, noting “(I suppose people of limited imagination would refer to it as the nursery.)” Whether or not you’re in grades 3-7, you’ll enjoy spending time in her company and, like me, will be looking forward to meeting up with her again. ( )
  Sarah-Hope | Sep 8, 2015 |
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