|In what has been announced as the first of a trilogy, readers are introduced to orphaned Mary Finch. As with many eighteenth- or nineteenth-century English orphans, Mary has an estranged relative, in this case an uncle, whom she seeks in the hope of reestablishing some family ties.
As Mary travels to her Uncle Edward’s estate, White Ladies, she is taken under the wing of Captain Robert Holland, who takes it upon himself to see that she is delivered safely to her uncle. Upon her arrival at Uncle Edward’s Suffolk estate, Mary learns her uncle has died and she is thought to be his only heir.
While sorting through her uncle’s papers and affairs, Mary finds some mysterious messages that use Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England to decode them. Mary quickly realizes that her uncle may have been involved in espionage as the Napoleonic wars rage around them.
The Blackstone Key takes full advantage of its late eighteenth-century setting. Mary Finch is reminiscent of many orphaned characters that have come before (the Brontes, even Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden). Her independence at an early age has made her strong, though with a touch of skepticism, allowing her to gracefully and skillfully navigate the current task set before her. She decides to trust Captain Holland, though with reservations.
A gothic atmosphere with a touch of espionage and intrigue is sure to please many readers who will return eagerly to Mary’s next adventure.
--Jennifer Monahan Winberry