dead letter office's Reviews > Mary Reilly

Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin
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Feb 01, 2012

really liked it

Valerie Martin is so much fun to read. This one was especially good, and I was lucky enough to read it after (finally) reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the first time (I continue to reap the benefits of not doing any of the assigned reading in high school). Her style, which always seems to tend toward the dark and the creepy, makes her perfectly suited to rework this story. There's an eeriness in being shown through the house you just read about by the maid who works there in the months leading up to a tragedy you know is coming: you see the axe long buried in the straw in the disused theater, you see the butler leaving on an unknown errand whose outcome you have foreseen, you see that last tense dinner party play out stroboscopically as Mary enters and leaves to serve the food and tend the fire.

It's all so well constructed and perfectly pitched (Valerie Martin does dark fog and chill and ominous mystery as well as Stevenson), and you begin to feel a bit like a psychic Victorian as you watch all the events you've pre-witnessed (from another point of view, as in a dream) re-unfold around you.

And then there's that Afterword. What *was* that? It's like the publisher insisted on it 3 days before going to press or something. It feels thrown together and tacked on. It's superfluous and awkward, and Valerie Martin, who seems to get every voice just right somehow doesn't seem comfortable with that one (ostensibly her own?) There's even a spelling mistake. Odd.
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