The latest antics of the Mainiacs
MOLLIE PEER: OR THE UNDERGROUND ADVENTURE OF THE MOOSEPATH LEAGUE By Van Reid Viking 416 pp., $24.95
The affable Tobias Walton and the hapless club members of The Moosepath League are back for another misadventure in "Mollie Peer" with a host of new villains and heroes.
Picking up where Van Reid's first novel, "Cordelia Underwood," left off in the lazy days of summer, this story transpires under the Maine fall foliage.
The plot centers around a small boy named Bird who unwillingly serves as an errand boy for a gang of shady characters who linger down by the dock.
Mollie Peer, a beautiful and feisty social-news columnist, notices the plight of pitiful Bird. With a thirst for reporting on stories considered not quite proper for a late 19th-century lady, Mollie feigns a tale of woe to engage a perfect stranger to rescue the boy.
Thus begins the tension-filled entanglement between Mollie and Wyckford O'Hearn, a tall and lumbering ball player known for his home-run slugs.
A successful rescue mission triggers the hot pursuit of Bird's suspicious guardians as the boy retains valuable information concerning a secret stash of loot. Eager to keep Bird out of the clutches of the criminals, and wanting to avoid turning the boy over to authorities, Mollie and Wyckford entrust Bird's care to the members of The Moosepath League. But this group of well-intentioned dandies leads Bird from one mishap to another, nearly losing him to kidnappers during a rigged seance.
Meanwhile, Mister Walton is on his way to escort Phileda McCannon, a spirited gentlewoman whom he met last summer, to an annual town ball. Along the way, Mister Walton has brief encounters and adventures of his own with an endless list of entertaining characters. However, Bird is finally captured by the ruffians and an urgent telegram requesting the immediate assistance of Mister Walton unites the members of The Moosepath League once again.
Although the eccentric Maine characters in "Mollie Peer" are as endearing as they were in Reid's first novel, stringing the separate plots requires a bit more juggling in this installment. The final culminating event has a surprisingly violent twist.
The novel ends with a cliff-hanger, and several romances are just beginning to bud. These suggest there are questions to be answered in yet another Reid novel - most likely one that will take place in the silver-white of winter.
Reid continues to deliver stories that delight, encouraging readers to put up their feet for awhile to enjoy a good old-fashioned yarn.
*Kendra Nordin is a freelance writer in Boston.