Thursday, September 25, 2008

History Mystery: Traitor in Williamsburg: A Felicity Mystery by Elizabeth McDavid Jones

Before there were Red States and Blue States, even before there were Rebel States and Yankee States, there were Tories and Patriots. In Williamsburg, Virginia, the spring before the July 4 Declaration of 1776, conflict festered between those colonists still loyal to the British Crown and those who had cast their lots with the Patriots.

The clash between the two parties has already struck close to Felicity Merriman's home, when her best friend Elizabeth's loyalist father has been forced to leave Virginia for New York, leaving Liz and her mother without his support. Then a broadside claiming that that her friend Fiona McLeod's Scottish father is disloyal to the Patriots has forced the whole family to flee and their home and successful business to be sold at auction. When Mr. Merriman publishes a defense of Fergus McLeod's patriotism, he, too, falls under suspicion, and after another broadside accusing her father is published under the pseudonym "Mr. Puller," Felicity sees her father arrested for trading with the English forces and slated for trial.

But Felicity and Elizabeth suspect that the ledger entries and sales receipt signed by the British general are fakes, planted in Mr. Merriman's office while he was away on a secret trip to Portsmouth. Because Mr. Merriman's mission was to help supply the Patriot forces in the area, he refuses to testify about the purpose of his journey, and Felicity knows that it is up to her to prove her father's innocence or submit to deportation and confiscation of their home and store also.

With the loyal Elizabeth and her father's apprentice Ben as co-sleuths, Felicity sets out to do the detective legwork to identify the mysterious "Mr. Puller" and locate the evidence to clear her father's name. After inquiries at the local print shops and with a suspect in mind, the girls plant a message which leads the conspirator to a supposed midnight meeting in the graveyard. Hiding behind large gravestones to get a better look at the suspect in the flashes of lightning, Felicity and Elizabeth are spotted and barely escape, still unable to identify the caped figure. However, Felicity recalls that the man was wearing an elaborate "bob wig," and reasoning that he will have to have it restyled after its soaking in the rain, she traces him to the town's one wig shop the next day.

With the traitor's name and motive in hand, there only remains for Felicity and Ben to search his office for similar receipts for deals with enemy forces, and a dramatic entrance to the courtroom where Mr. Merriman is on trial stops the proceedings so that Felicity can present the evidence to the judges.

In this perennially popular American Girl series which begins with Meet Felicity: An American Girl : 1774 (The American Girls Collection, Book 1), the reader sees Felicity Merriman as she grows from an impulsive, horse-crazy nine-year-old to a responsible and thoughtful eleven-year-old who has become deeply involved with the historic events of the year 1776 in the American colonies. As always with this notable historical fiction series, the appendix describes the social and political events of the period, in this case the tension between the Patriots and Tories and the checkered history of the Committees of Safety which were the first civil rulers of the rebellious colonies.

An exciting and satisfying mystery story which draws the reader into daily life of a Virginia girl in the first year of the American Revolution, Traitor in Williamsburg: A Felicity Mystery (American Girl Mysteries) is a terrific choice for mystery fans and historical fiction fans alike.

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  • For those of us who went to William and Mary in the "Story of A Patriot" (starring Jack Lord) days, the phrase "English goods were ever the best" comes to mind.

    By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at 10:46 PM  

  • I have a boy in 3d grade. He might be a little put off by the girls as protaganists. Do you have similar stories with boys?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:56 AM  

  • Oh, yes, I do! There are several really good historical fiction books featuring boy protagonists in the DEAR AMERICA series. This series, like the American Girls sets, is written by "real," i.e,, talented and/or famous authors and are set in pivotal times in American history.

    I've reviewed some which might also work for your son, now or a little later. Look under American history, Civil War Stories, World War II Stories, etc.

    Hope you find something he'll enjoy.

    By Blogger GTC, at 5:47 PM  

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