cover image The Gallery

The Gallery

Laura Marx Fitzgerald. Dial, $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-525-42865-7

This cleverly constructed historical mystery stars 12-year-old Martha O'Doyle, expelled from her Brooklyn parochial school in 1928 for what Sister Ignatius deems cheekiness but others might call curiosity. Martha's Irish immigrant mother gets her a job as a maid at the Fifth Avenue mansion where she keeps house for J. Archer Sewell, a newspaper mogul with a problem straight out of Jane Eyre: a mad wife locked away upstairs (with an art collection that would make curators drool). Fitzgerald (Under the Egg) stuffs the story with period detail: the Herbert Hoover/Al Smith presidential race, Sacco and Vanzetti's execution, and women's suffrage all figure in the plot as Martha, sensing something amiss, tries to decode the messages Mrs. Sewell may be sending through the paintings that hang in the eponymous gallery. At first, the frame device (Martha tells the story in flashback as she celebrates her 100th birthday) seems superfluous, but the neat ending wraps up the mystery in a satisfying way. Offer this to fans of Blue Balliett who like sophisticated adventures. Ages 8–12. Agent: Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger. (June)