Review of Hattie Vavaseur

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Susan Gibbs
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Review of Hattie Vavaseur

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[Following is a volunteer review of "Hattie Vavaseur" by M. Rebecca Wildsmith.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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Hattie Vavaseur by M. Rebecca Wildsmith is a unique story with a mystery to solve and some supernatural elements. This 186-page book opens with Hattie attending a funeral. She is later driven to a mansion. She has no recollection of why she is at the mansion. Hattie is worried that she has suffered memory loss. She is too proud to ask any of the servants. The master of the house believes that Hattie wants to purchase his house. Hattie is determined to find out why she is really at the mansion. She discovers that the master of the house has arranged for her to go into town. Hattie is horrified to learn she has an appointment with a medium called Vamelda. Vamelda gives Hattie some startling news. Hattie decides that Vamelda might be able to help her. Vamelda decides they need to contact Hattie’s nephew, Gerald. She asks him to find out more about his aunt’s early life. He finds some letters and sends them to Vamelda. Hattie discovers she had a disappointment in love in her youth. Hattie meets an American called Mr. Carrington at Vamelda’s place. He asks her to help him solve a murder. They discover that Hattie’s former fiancé, Reginald, was murdered, allegedly by Mr. Carrington’s wife, Lydia Carrington (was Campbell). Gerald meets Mrs. Carrington in America and is charmed by her. He decides he wants to break off his engagement with his partner, Trixie. Trixie rushes over to America to reclaim Gerald. Mrs. Carrington poisons Trixie’s face cream in revenge and Gerald is blamed. Vamelda’s acquaintance (Miss Syd) is sent over to America to gather information on Mrs. Carrington to exonerate Gerald from blame. Lydia Carrington eventually turns up in England. The themes I noticed in the book range from blind passion and obsession (Lydia), second chances, and loyalty to perseverance. Read this gripping story to find out what happens next and whether Hattie and the others are eventually free of Mrs. Carrington.

I enjoyed the unpredictability and uniqueness of this story. My interest was captured from the beginning. I wanted to read on to find out more. It is written from an unusual perspective. The author has successfully captured the essence of the period (the nineteen twenties) in which it is set. The characters all use appropriate vocabulary. Gerald uses a lot of the common slang that young people used. It is amusing when Vamelda gets Gerald to do some steps from the popular dance of the time, the Charleston. The author writes with a dramatic and slightly humorous tone. She uses wonderfully descriptive phrases such as “sleep was a gossamer web” and “dawn kissed the edges of the windowsill”.

It is easy to picture the characters. They are typical of their time. Examples are the beautiful Lydia and the brooding Reginald. The main character, Hattie is proud, slightly snobbish, independent, and courageous. She is determined to solve the mystery of why she is at the mansion. In the scenes with the evil Lydia, she is the one who courageously and cleverly thinks of a solution that could rid them of Lydia. The medium, Vamelda, is dramatic and humorous and tries to be helpful. She speaks exaggeratedly. She dresses just as you would expect a medium to dress. Although the characters might seem stereotypical, they do have depth. Reginald at first appears gruff and rude but shows he has a tender side. The love/hate relationship between Hattie and Vamelda is also endearing. After disliking her at first, Hattie begins to tease Vamelda. She eventually comes to rely on Vamelda.

The only parts of the book that I didn’t like were the scenes when the characters are fighting with and trying to defeat Lydia. Secondly, I didn’t enjoy reading about Lydia's creepy and evil plans. I felt that these details spoiled the story a bit. In my opinion, it was not altogether necessary to add this dimension. It would have sufficed to depict Lydia as having a habit of getting rid of people who were no longer useful to her. In similar mystery stories of the age, the gory details are usually glossed over.

The book seemed to have been professionally edited. I only discovered one small error. I am happy to rate the book 4 out of 4 stars. The story is original and amusing. The characters are interesting and the parts of the mystery fit together neatly.

This book will appeal to readers who enjoy mysteries. Sensitive readers need to be aware that the book features a medium, seances, and some supernatural elements. This should not detract from their enjoyment of the book.

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Hattie Vavaseur
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