The Transcendental Murder (Homer Helly #1) by Jane Langton
Publisher/Year: Mysterious Press, 1964
Format: E-book (Libby)
In Concord, Massachusetts, the discovery of century-old love letters leads to murder–from “today’s best American mystery writer” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
The citizens of Concord, Massachusetts, never tire of their heritage. For decades, the intellectuals of this little hamlet have continued endless debates about Concord’s favorite sons: Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, and their contemporaries. Concord’s latter-day transcendental scholars are a strange bunch, but none is more peculiar than Homer Kelly, an expert on Emerson and on homicide. An old-fashioned murder is about to put both skills to the test.
At a meeting of the town’s intellectuals, Ernest Goss produces a cache of saucy love letters written by the men and women of the transcendentalist sect. Although Homer chortles at the idea that Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson might have had a fling, Goss insists the letters are real. He never gets a chance to prove it. Soon after he is found killed by a musket ball. The past may not be dead, but Goss certainly is.
What I thought
I was absolutely charmed by this mystery! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this up, but I ended up immensely enjoying this. I loved the portrayal of Concord, and I adored this cast of characters. I actually feel a bit sad to be finished–that’s how fond I feel of this town & its quirky residents.
This book isn’t perfect, by any means. There are a couple of minor plot holes, and there were a few times when Mary would get lost in a daydream that felt out of place. Other than that, I probably would have given this 5 stars.
I just really enjoyed this. It was written in a way that’s perfect for slowing down & cozying up with a good story. The mystery kept me guessing, and I’m glad to report that I didn’t figure it out. And even though having a bit of knowledge about the Transcendentalists (think Thoreau, Emerson, Alcott, Dickinson) added to my enjoyment of this, I wouldn’t say it’s necessary.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and charmed by this. It’s a little dated, but that actually kind of added to the charm for me. I would love to continue reading this series!