Miss Maitland, Private Secretary

Miss Maitland, Private Secretary, by Geraldine Bonner. Kindle edition. A Public Domain book. Originally published in 1919.

Plot synopsis: This is the story of a very affluent New York couple who, beginning with the divorce of their irresponsible daughter, find themselves embroiled in one crisis after another. The hits keep coming, culminating with the abduction of their only and beloved granddaughter, whom they  go to extraordinary lengths to find and bring home unharmed. In the middle of it is their trusted, reserved, private, and beautiful social secretary, the titular character Miss Esther Maitland.

Since the vast majority of the books I read are nonfiction, I was a little restless for something fun to read. Even though I don’t summarily dismiss books due to racy content, I do make a conscious effort to avoid books with gratuitous racy content, and I’ve found that the best way to get a book that is both a great romp and good clean fun is to look for books written during a certain time frame. I stumbled on this Geraldine Bonner classic perusing Amazon, and I am very glad that I did.

This book has it all:  intrigue, mystery, unrequited love, and nearly every manifestation of human nature is on display. In other words, Miss Maitland, Private Secretary is both a great romp and good clean fun.

It was intriguing to me that Miss Maitland both loomed large and hovered in the periphery of the action throughout most of the book. Indeed, the book’s title seemed increasingly strange to me as I read the book. However, as the story unfolded, it became clear that despite the character’s absence from the center of all the action, she was the impetus -whether because envy, malice, justice or love- which drove many of the characters and their actions from the beginning of the story to the end of it.

The best part of the book for me was that in the case of one of the mysteries, I had no idea whodunnit until the very end. That doesn’t happen very often, and alone is worth a recommendation.

If you want a fun, quick summer read, you won’t go wrong with Miss Maitland, Private Secretary by Geraldine Bonner. If you have a Kindle, you can even read it for free.

Grade: B+ for fun factor and good writing.

Content: It’s clean, but it’s not a kid book. There’s divorce, adultery, and peril. The entire book runs from beginning to end with adult themes.




Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective

encyclopedia brown

Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol. Originally published in 1963.

This is the first in series of books, each containing several short cases in which Encyclopedia Brown, son of the police chief in the fictional town of Idaville, solves crimes and mysteries for hire at a rate of 25 cents per case. Along with his body guard and business partner Sally Kimball, Encycolpedia uses his depth of knowledge and razor sharp intellectual instincts to unravel the cases that come across his desk.

The best part about the series is that the reader is invited to try and solve the mysteries based on the clues offered by the author as we walk through the facts of the case with Encyclopedia Brown. The solution isn’t offered in the case, but is tucked away in the back of the book, giving the child a chance to see if he or she can use their deductive reasoning to figure out how Encyclopedia cracked the case.

For our children, and for me too in fact, a few of the solutions were beyond their ability to figure out without peeking. However, sometimes the kids crack the case before looking in the back to compare their notes with Encyclopedia Brown’s and they find that very satisfying. It’s this opportunity to repeatedly attempt case after case that had our children continuing to read and check out more Encyclopedia Brown mysteries after getting a taste of their first book.

Grade: A

Recommended for ages 9-12. I would put this at 4-5 grade reading level. Our 3rd grader was able to read it and understand most of the time, but on occasion needed a little help grasping the full understanding of some words and phrases. No content advisory required.