Van Reid,
Mollie Peer: Or
the Underground Adventure
of the Moosepath League

(Viking, 1999)

Van Reid launches Tobias Walton, Sundry Moss and the irrepressible charter members of the Moosepath League into another adventure in Mollie Peer: Or the Underground Adventure of the Moosepath League.

Spirited and independent, the eponymous heroine, Mollie Peer, is the society columnist for the Portland Eastern Argus although her sights are set on being a journalist instead. Ever on the lookout for a good story, she is intrigued by a small, ragged boy who calls himself Bird and who is in the custody of a most unlikely guardian, the scruffy and disreputable-looking Eustace Pembleton. Intrigued, she follows them down to the wharf, where she and her friend Hilda are attacked by Pembleton and his thug, Tom Bull, only to be rescued accidentally by none other than Tobias Walton and his friend and "gentleman's gentleman," Sundry Moss.

Determined to learn more about the boy, she returns to the wharf, unexpectedly enlisting the aid of ball player Wyckford Cormac O'Hearn, a.k.a. "The Hibernian Titan." O'Hearn rescues the boy from Pembleton's clutches and sets off more than one uproarious chain of events.

Mollie finds that Bird means more to her than just a story, and the tough but tender-hearted O'Hearn is devoted to the child. Together with wharf denizen Horace McQuinn (not to mention the perpetually awestruck Maven Flyce) they plot to smuggle Bird to safety.

Their best bet, they feel, is to find Tobias Walton and enlist his aid, but that is not to be. Tobias and Sundry are on their way to Hallowell, where Tobias is attending a Harvest Ball with the lovely and intelligent Phileda McCannon, for whom he has developed quite a fondness (which certainly seems reciprocated). All is not lost however, for in lieu of Tobias Walton are Thump, Eagleton and Ephram, founding members of the Moosepath League, who spirit Bird out of Portland and to safety -- or so they believe.

As in Reid's first novel, Cordelia Underwood, the various threads come together into a thrilling tale which carries overtones of myth and legend. There is, indeed, resolution to the story, but just enough is left over to pique the reader's curiosity for the next book.

Apart from the main characters, Mollie Peer is packed with colorful characters, from the actor Amos Guernsey who is always ready with a quote from one of his performances to the spiritualist Baroness Blinsky and the curiously cursed Henry Echo -- not to mention the various members of the various quibbling societies of Brunswick. Native American John Neptune and his raccoon, Eugene, are central to one of the subplots as well. Isherwood Tolly, the gregarious storyteller from Cordelia Underwood, puts in an appearance, as do other characters from that novel.

The endearing Moosepath League members, while still blissfully innocent and trusting, acquire dimension in this venture and display more distinct character traits, definitely an improvement. One can't go far from wrong with Eagleton, Ephram and Thump on one's side -- although the journey might prove to be circuitous.

Mollie Peer is a rich and rewarding read which serves to whet the reader's appetite for more from Reid and the Moosepath League.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]



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