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The Problem of the Spiteful Spiritualist Hardcover – June 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The unlikely detective duo of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and Arthur Conan Doyle are on the case again (after The Problem of the Missing Miss). It's 1885 and Dodgson, accepting the young Doyle's invitation to visit his home in the English town of Portsmouth, arrives just after the death of one Captain Jethro Arkwright. Everyone believes that the captain, a "hard-drinking, hard-smoking man with an evil temper and a bad heart," died of natural causes. Everyone, that is, except Doyle, who is convinced that foul play was involved. Within a few hours of Dodgson's arrival, an emissary of the Rajah of Rajitpur appears, seeking information about a stolen treasure. A s?ance to contact the deceased captain about the treasure's whereabouts is suggested. Mrs. Cavanaugh, Arkwright's housekeeper and nurse to his children, volunteers to act as medium. In the midst of the s?ance, she dies, muttering the words "murder... murder." Rogow foreshadows Doyle's Sign of Four and echoes Dodgson's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, mixing famous lines from both into her narrative. Her plot is thick with intrigue and sharp portrayals of social hierarchies in Doyle's small town ("where everyone had a place: the master and mistress, the upper servants, the lower servants, each level with duties, rights, and privileges") putting the book a rank above most period tales. Above all, the felicity with which Rogow brings the two literary greats together makes for an evening's pleasant entertainment. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Charles Dodgson, better known as writer Lewis Carroll, and Arthur Conan Doyle made their debut as fictional sleuths in last year's Problem of the Missing Miss. This time Rogow places the pair in Portsmouth, England, where Dodgson has journeyed at Doyle's invitation to read the would-be author's latest stories and (Doyle hopes) help him get published. But Dodgson has barely set his bags down when he and Doyle become embroiled in a murder case. Captain Arkwright, a retired seaman, is found dead; with foul play suspected, Arkwright's mysterious housekeeper suggests a seance, where she will act as medium to contact Arkwright and ask who killed him. But during the seance, the housekeeper keels over dead. Doyle and Dodgson, both present at the event, find themselves engaged in the investigation, which hinges on a fortune in missing jewels. An imaginative, cleverly plotted story with authentic historical details and engaging characters, Rogow's latest is a pleasantly diverting read that will appeal to Anne Perry fans. Emily Melton

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 282 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st edition (June 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312205708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312205706
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,644,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In 1885 Portsmouth, retired sea captain Arkwright dies from what appears to be natural causes since the elderly gentleman was already deathly ill. However, Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle has some doubts as to the actual cause of death. The daughters of the deceased find Doyle's theories most interesting, and encouraged by their housekeeper, set up a seance to ask their father how he died.
Doyle and a visiting companion, Reverend Charles Dodgson feel as if they are wondering if they are looking through Alice's glasses because the housekeeper dies in the middle of the seance. As the duo works together to uncover a killer, they place themselves in potential danger of being the next victims. Still they strongly feel they must identify the murderer.
THE PROBLEM OF THE SPITEFUL SPIRITUALIST is a finely tuned, extremely original late Victorian mystery that readers of historical who-done-its, Holmes, and Carroll will immensely enjoy. The story line is complex and entertaining. However, the characters own this creative tale as readers gain an authentic feel for the era, especially through the minds of two of literature's superheavyweights. Roberta Rogow is quickly developing a following with her unique style that leaves an enjoyable aftertaste.

Harriet Klausner
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I just finished this book, having read every word eagerly. I will look for her other novels.
However, I must say that I decided on the killer early in the book, never suspected anyone else, and at the end was proved right. Also, there is much descriptive and conversational repetition throughout--a good editor might have pointed this out.
The reasons this book was enjoyable were the interesting characters and brisk pace (even though in 19th C. England, the lifestyle was slower from ours).
I hope her writing improves; the story was entertaining!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Simon DelMonte on May 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Once you look past the almost inevitable coincidences that shape the mystery, you find a fun little romp. Rogow - who is also a very talented filk song writer in the sci-fi community - creates lively characters and makes Lewis Carroll live again (even if Conan Doyle is a bit of a stiff). PErfect beach reading.
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