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The Stillwater Tragedy by Thomas Bailey…
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The Stillwater Tragedy (edition 1880)

by Thomas Bailey Aldrich

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Member:NinieB
Title:The Stillwater Tragedy
Authors:Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Info:Amazon Digital Services, 2012
Collections:Your library, Fiction, ebooks
Rating:***1/2
Tags:Mystery, Fiction, Massachusetts

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The Stillwater Tragedy by Thomas Bailey Aldrich

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This 19th century American mystery takes place in Stillwater, a Massachusetts "manufacturing village"-- a small town with factories, including textile mills, forges, and, most importantly, a marble-carving yard. This setting is key to the plot. The story opens with the murder of Lemuel Shackford, a nasty old man who is nice to no one, least of all his estranged young cousin, Richard Shackford. Aldrich offers a surprisingly modern buildup to the discovery of the body. After that, we go back in time and learn the history of Lemuel's and Richard's difficult relationship, Richard's running away to sea, and his return to the village. Lemuel refuses to offer any kindness to Richard, who takes himself off to the Slocum's marble yard. Rowland Slocum, a much nicer, but rather soft, older man, agrees to take Richard on as a bookkeeper and (in modern lingo) administrative assistant. Richard thrives in this position. Notably, the reason Slocum does not take Richard as a marble-working apprentice is the union--it maintains a perpetual shortage of qualified workers by limiting the number of apprentices. Slocum's difficulties with his workers, and labor unrest in the town, as a whole, are at the center of the plot.

As a mystery, The Stillwater Tragedy is decidedly minor, of interest mainly as a historical relic. The average reader will have little to no difficulty figuring out whodunnit. But the setting amid labor troubles and workmen is quite interesting, not what I usually expect in 19th century popular fiction. Everyday life is rather vividly portrayed. Three stars (and that's being generous) for the mystery qualities, with a bump up another half for the interesting setting. ( )
  NinieB | Jul 11, 2019 |
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