Suzy's Reviews > Big Bona Ogles, Boy!

Big Bona Ogles, Boy! by Michael   Gallagher
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Jan 09, 2017

it was amazing

Another wonderful mystery featuring Octavius Guy, aka Gooseberry, as he and his detective-assistant-in-training, George Crumb, work to solve a series of murders involving a psychic medium in 19th-century London. When Octavius notes some very unusual behaviour from Mr. Crabbit, the man in charge of reimbursing him for small expenses he incurs through his investigative work for Mr. Bruff, the lawyer that both are employef by, he decides it's a mystery to be solved, and a perfect opportunity to further George's lessons in the art of being a good detective. Through their spying they discover that Mrs. Crabbit has been attending sessions with a very expensive psychic medium in the hopes of contact with her late Uncle, whose estate she had hoped to inherit. To her dismay, the Estate ended up going to the only other living relative, a man that she knew her Uncle disapproved of, and would not have left a penny to. Convinced that the will was forged, Mrs. Crabbit believes that somehow she will be able to contact her Uncle to find evidence of such. Octavius resolves to find a way for him and George to attend the seance in order to learn more, and find a way to help the Crabbits one way or another. When murder occurs in the midst of a ghostly appearance, followed by more murders that seem to tie everything to Mrs. Crabbit's Uncle and his Estate, Octavius is more determined than ever to get to the bottom of what is going on. A former street thief, the young Octavius is wise beyond his years to the ways of the world, as he takes care of his younger brother Julius, and uses his wits, as well as all the resources he has, to find ways around the obstacles that present themselves throughout the investigation. I really enjoyed the interaction between him and George, and getting to know George better, and I love that Bertha has become a regular character in the books. Not only is she Gooseberry's best friend, but provides a wonderful mother figure for his family of outcasts and street folk, showing that kindness and caring can come in the most unexpected ways.

Michael Gallagher's research into 19th-century Spiritualism, and the fascination that many in the Victorian era had for attending seances and fortune telling, is meticulous as always. I enjoyed the notes at the end of the book about some of his real life sources. He weaves many of the details of real life Spiritualists into the story in such a way that the reader truly feels what those who attended such sessions must have felt...the awe, the fear, the fascination at witnessing disembodied heads that glowed with an eerie light, expelling a strange substance explained as "ectoplasm" from which ghostly manifestations could form (or so they said). In a darkened room, those attending would be told to hold hands and not let go, no matter what they saw or heard, for doing so could put the Medium's life in danger, heightening the suspense and anticipation. Even Octavius, with his very clever and rational mind searching for answers on how such things could be happening, shivers with fear when cold ghostly fingers brush the back of his neck, and loud raps signal ghostly answers to questions asked by those in attendance.

I have always found the Victorian obsession with Spiritualism fascinating...both the Spiritualists themselves (and the amazing lengths they would go to in order to convince their audience of the presence of the supernatural), and also those who worked hard to debunk them, and show them for the frauds they were. Octavius is like a young mixture of Sherlock Holmes and Houdini in the way his mind works overtime, sifting through all that he sees, hears, and feels to try to find a rational explanation that he knows must be there. He's a pleasure to read about, and his world is filled with such detail that it's easy to imagine it all in your head. Heartwarming and humorous, with lots of suspense, it kept me guessing right through to the end. :-)
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Reading Progress

January 1, 2017 – Started Reading
January 1, 2017 – Shelved
January 8, 2017 – Finished Reading

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