On the eve of Petronella’s 16th birthday and coming out party in Edwardian London, her guardian, Uncle Augustus, accidentally swallows a beetle, and suddenly becomes addicted to eating insects. This embarrassing situation leads to Augustus’s knocking down the party tent while in pursuit of some particularly tasty moths, and during the resulting chaos, two important political figures, Dame Carruthers and Panamanian revolutionary Generalissimo Reyes-Cardoza, are kidnapped. With the help of her insect eating uncle, her best friend Jane, and Jane’s brother, Lord James Sinclair (about whom Petronella makes any side observations regarding his manly charms), Petronella sets off to unravel the mystery of the kidnapping. What follows is a Jane Austen meets Lemony Snickett concoction, part political intrigue, part mystery, part suspense, part drawing room comedy. Complete with ransom notes, exotic insects, swirling fog, archetypal London bobbies, a paragon of a butler, and oceans of tea and mounds of cucumber sandwiches, this witty tale will charm readers who love fantasy with a touch of historical fiction, or who have a taste for the absurdly humorous. All wraps up satisfactorily at the end, with the intrepid and resourceful Petronella rescuing large numbers of her relatives, and averting a national catastrophe. The book leaves the reader with a gentle hint of more adventures to come, and certainly left me hoping for more.
Not recommended for the reluctant reader. Vocabulary is sophisticated, and sentence structure often complex. The writing style achieves a witty and humorous presentation that begs comparison to historical drawing room comedies, such as those written by Jane Austen. However, the vocabulary, language and style may be frustrating to developing readers. Ages 12 and up 208 pages
Recommended by Linda Lucke, Librarian