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Behind a mask: The unknown thrillers of Louisa May Alcott
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Behind a mask: The unknown thrillers of Louisa May Alcott

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  792 ratings  ·  84 reviews
Six years before she wrote Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, in financial straits, entered "Pauline's Passion and Punishment," a novelette, in a newspaper contest. Not only did it win the $100 prize, but, published anonymously, it marked the first in the series of "blood & thunder tales" that would be her livelihood for years.

In Behind a Mask, editor Madeleine Stern in

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Paperback, 308 pages
Published 1978 by Bantam Books (first published 1976)
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Salma
These stories are delicious.

But with "Behind the Mask," Alcott veered from her traditional path of 'wholesome' writing. The book consists of four novellas, most of which were published anonymously at the time as what Alcott called her "Blood-and-Thunder Tales." Modern 'literary' readers might consider tales like these potboilers and trash. Certainly, Alcott's primary goal in writing them was for financial gain.

But one wonders whether Alcott's own shadow, her frustration at the plight of the po...more
K4tie
This was beautifully written. The dark undertones almost made it unrecognizable as being written by Louisa May Alcott, however not quite. Reading this was like falling under the spell of the main character who although I know was deceiving everyone I couldn't help but keep reading and see how it would pan out. The pacing was quick and justly so, it would have been boring if not a whirlwind of activity. I suspected the truth of some of the things that were being presented, but not everything. How...more
Jennifer
Aug 18, 2008 Jennifer rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer by: alison page
This is the first book I've read in a while that I just couldn't put down. As much as I love Little Women, I think I like Alcott's potboilers almost as much. This one is really interesting because even though I knew from the first chapter that Miss Muir was not a good person, I completely enjoyed the way she made all three men fall in love with her. I read it in 2 days - that means most people could read it in a few hours.
housedintherock
This was a side of Louisa May Alcott that made me chuckle, it was like reading all those fantastic stories that Jo wrote in her attic in Little Women. Very melodramatic! There are also quite a few of these where you can definitely see her abolitionist roots, but also how very prejudiced she and her times were still towards African Americans.
Andrea
How cool was it to find out that Louisa May Alcott wrote gothic thrillers under another name? I was excited. The first and longest novellette of the collection is Behind A Mask or A Woman's Power (She's very fond of this or business in her titles) and that is fairly stunning. The twist happens immediately and you've no way seen it coming. It's superficially a moral tale but you're rooting for the 'bad' girl the whole time, she is stupendous, and as a rather scathing commentary on the upper class...more
Teresa B
Jun 18, 2010 Teresa B rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: mystery, romance
In this collection of four "blood and thunder tales" I found incredible, powerful female protagonists who were VILLAINS. This was not what I expected of Miss Alcott's writing! Each character quickly enters complicated webs of interaction with the others. Included in each story are unexpected plot twists, with shocking, yet believable, destiny-shaping changes.

I will not give away any spoiling details, but I must share this: one tale seemed perfectly resolved, until the last two lines, which made...more
Abbie
These are so awesome. Louisa May Alcott, best known for the sweet and family-friendly girl's story "Little Women" had to earn a living like anybody else, and so, before she was famous, wrote a bunch of anonymous and pseudonymous thrillers for rag newspapers.

They're not anybody's idea of great literature. We've got your hashish use, scorned women trying to ruin their scorners, men marrying their wards only to learn too late that they realy do love them, insanity, and Hindu Thuggism. The plots ar...more
Lauren
Dec 16, 2008 Lauren rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people looking for stories off the beaten path
Louisa May Alcott was a very talented author. This collection is proof of that. The stories may have been thrillers in their day, and indeed are inhabited with ghosts, revenge minded cast-off lovers and forbidden matches, but they are entertaining nonetheless, admirably represent their genres and are good mysteries. Yes, mysteries. In "the Abbotts Ghost", we wonder just what secret poor Treherne is hiding and why. In others, we ponder the mysterious governess, the rage and revenge of a beautiful...more
Lisa
This was a fun read. Certainly not something I'm going to run out and tout as a classic-must-read book, but as a big fan of Alcott's writing growing up, this was an adventure.

I found the storylines less than compelling, but the characters themselves (always Alcotts strong point) were beautifully portrayed. Like her better known (dare I simply say: better) writings, the truest moments in these stories evolved from her tender portrayal of familial relationships.

I admit, I did read these with the m...more
Kristin
The stories in Behind a Mask were definitely darker than Alcott's better well known work, Little Women. I wouldn't call them precisely thrillers. I suppose in today's society, we require more to scare us. They feel more like Pride and Prejudice than Dracula. The main difference being that while the protagonists get what they want, but don't generally deserve to be rewarded.
Coral
This book contains short stories and novellas from Louisa May Alcott's other genre- thrillers and gothic. Some are more predictable than others and some have surprise endings. There are happy endings and one or two endings that may make you angry! I think it's fun to read the "Jo" type writings of Louisa.
Andrea
I love books in which nothing really happens, so Louisa May Alcott and Jane Austen are a couple of favorites. Behind a Mask (the first of a few short stories in this volume) is especially amazing in that NOTHING happens until EVERYTHING happens. All in the last three pages. It's great.
Jaclynn
Meet another side of Louisa May Alcott with this book. A collection of "thriller" stories previously published anonymously or under pseudonyms. Easy to read, hard to put down, and well written.
Michelle
Termed "Blood and Thunder" stories by Miss Alcott herself. For me, these stories were addicting and I scarfed them down faster than I could devour a box of chocolates. Guilty as charged!
Jody Elliott
These creepy stories were great. Again, I like Alcott's better known works, but everyone loves a good thriller or ghost story once in a while.
Whitney
Behind a Mask is an excellent way to become acquainted with Alcott's racier side. With a hidden identity used for publication (A.M. Barnard) it all fits together nicely in this unique thriller.

Jean Muir is hired to be the Governess to the Coventry house but upon her arrival realize that something is amiss and that Miss Muir is nothing like Nanny Fine. She is very syrupy but yet seduces everyone in the family with her charm. With calculated moves, "introducing" herself as a sweet innocent girl do...more
Diane
The shock discovery in Madeline Stern's superlative introduction
is that Louisa had to be persuaded to write "Little Women" and
she was much happier churning out tales of blood and thunder.
She wrote in a letter that she was extremely addicted to them.
Seeing the correspondence between her and her editors she must
have written 23 hours a day!!! - the length of the stories in
this book varied from 50 to 100 pages and she was always being
pressed for more, more, more!!!
Louisa's father was extremely impr...more
Grace Garrett
The wealthy Coventry family hires a captivating young governess named Jean Muir. Talented, witty, passionate and wise, one by one they fall under her spell. However, readers soon discover that Jean is not all that she seems. Will the Coventrys discover the truth before it is too late?

"Behind a Mask" is supposed to be a thriller, but to me it felt like a Bronte novel (which is to say, possibly thrilling to the average ninteenth century Catherine Morland type). I actually liked it quite a lot more...more
Etta Mcquade
Here is another side of Lousia May Alcott. How many readers know she wrote "blood and thunder tales," as she called them, six years before "Little Women," in a dire effort to make some money? The first of her Gothic novelettes,"Pauline's Passion and Punishment," written anonymously, was entered in a newspaper contest and netted her $100. Most of the others were written under the pseudonym of A. M. Barnard and provided her a livelihood for many years. She wrote in her journal, "I enjoy romancing...more
Maddie
Fans of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women who wanted to know what Jo March's 'blood and thunder' tales were like should read this collection. These are the newspaper stories Alcott published before she became a famous children's writer.

I thought I had read all of Alcott's writings until I devoured a biography on her by Harriet Resien. I am now on the hunt to find Alcott's newspaper published items - including Hospital Sketches and these romantic tales.

Alcott's masterful turn of phrase and creativ...more
Claire
Louisa May Alcott has been one of my favorite authors since I was a young girl but I had no idea she had written any thrillers! Absolutely loved all these short stories and wish there were many more to dive into!
Vikky
Loved it. I took a class in Victorian literature and this was one of the books we were assigned. I was flabbergasted when I read this. Who would have thought that Alcott was capable of writing such stories. This is the woman who gave us Little Women, and here she is telling us about deceitful women that drive men mad. During our class discussion my professor, who has a PhD in Victorian Lit, told us that Alcott actually hated writing Little Women. These short stories was the style and genre of wr...more
Robin
These tales are definitely not Alcott's best work, but there is tawdriness about them that belies the author and the era, making them all the more fascinating. And, as is typical of Alcott's other works, the characters and context are well-developed. Had the stories been written in recent times, I would not have given them a second glance for they are a bit histrionic and in need of an editor's touch (e.g., inconsistencies, jumps in a storyline, failure to follow through on an allusion). Neverth...more
Andria
This is far outside my usual style, but it's hard not to like these melodramas.
Janell
It really goes against the grain to give anything by LMA only 2 stars but these short stories were simply boring! And I definitely have a different definition of the word "thriller"! Perhaps they were gripping in their day but there was only one of the five that kept my interest enough to keep me from skimming here and there. The characters were uninteresting and her usual rich style of descriptive writing seemed quite amateurish. Perhaps these are some of her earliest writings. It was fun to se...more
Ceci
i was like YAY ITS OVER!!!!!
Allyson Faith
Fascinating and fun. These stories have held up well.
Nicci
Mar 21, 2007 Nicci rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Alcott fans and thrill seekers
This book of short stories is a very interesting diverging from Alcott's usual works of love and friendship. All of these thrillers are sure to make you sit on the edge of your chair. Full of villains lurking in the strangest of places, each story will keep you guessing. The only drawback is that some of the situations seem a bit similar at times. However, this doesn't detract from the stories individually. Overall, a very intriguing read.
Kathleen
The dark side of Louisa May Alcott. After reading this collection and doing research on Alcott's "thrillers," I am so impressed by this woman. She was a feminist and an abolitionist writing under a male pseudonym to protect her domestic identity as America's "little woman." It was not until the 1970s that these stories were discovered to be Alcott's and they shine a whole new light on women's roles in 19th century America.
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1315
As A. M. Barnard:
Behind a Mask, or a Woman's Power (1866)
The Abbot's Ghost, or Maurice Treherne's Temptation (1867)
A Long Fatal Love Chase (1866 – first published 1995)
First published anonymously:
A Modern Mephistopheles (1877)

Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on November 29, 1832. She and her three sisters, Anna, Elizabeth and May were educated by their father, philosopher/ t...more
More about Louisa May Alcott...
Little Women (Little Women, #1) Little Men (Little Women #2) Eight Cousins Jo's Boys (Little Women, #3) Rose in Bloom (Eight Cousins, #2)

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“Nothing is impossible to a determined woman.” 80 likes
“I've neither beauty, money, nor rank, yet every foolish boy mistakes my frank interest for something warmer, and makes me miserable. It is my misfortune. Think of me what you will, but beware of me in time, for against my will I may do you harm.” 11 likes
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