Van Reid,
Daniel Plainway, or The Holiday
Haunting of the Moosepath League

(Viking, 2000)

The Moosepath League rides again! Led by chairman Tobias Walton of the peripatetic hat -- which always seems to pave the way in each of Van Reid's splendid books -- the trio of Eagleton, Ephram and Thump are off on another adventure. Naturally, Sundry Moss, Tobias Walton's friend, "gentleman's gentleman" and, of course, League member is keeping them company as well in Daniel Plainway, the third of Reid's novels set in turn-of-the-century Maine.

The little boy, Bird, for whom Wyckford O'Hearn suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder, now lives safely with the recuperating O'Hearn and his mother. Efforts to track Bird's family include a drawing in the newspaper made from the painting of the woman believed to be Bird's mother.

Daniel Plainway, a country lawyer, sees the newspaper clipping by chance. He recognizes the woman as a dear friend, a member of a family shattered by pride, the only remnant of which is a child, lost since the age of 1 year old. Daniel, burdened with the guilt of promises unkept, vows to find the child and assure himself that Bird -- Bertram -- is cared for well.

Meanwhile, Tobias and Sundry are drawn into a mystery of a group called the Broumnage Club which appears dedicated to the destruction of Norse ruins. Tobias and Sundry travel north with Frederick and Isabelle Covington who are trying to verify just such a ruin and find themselves pursued by the Club.

The founding Moosepath members have their own errand -- to escort Ezra Burnbrake and his ne'er-do-well nephew Roger Noble to Hallowell. Burnbrake leaves his daughter Charlotte behind, although with misgivings, because he doesn't trust Roger's integrity or intentions. Roger is in turn deeply infatuated with Charlotte. Enter Daniel Plainway who steps right into the role of protector.

As in Reid's previous novels, all the convoluted story lines converge and weave together neatly. The plot is fast-paced, and Reid outdoes himself with his characters. The Moosepath Leaguers encounter their more worldly counterparts in the Dash-It-All Boys; the two clubs end up on opposite sides of a snowball fight to remember. Charlotte and Daniel take shelter with a clutch of elderly spinster sisters; it is hoped that Reid will have use for the sisters in a future novel. The regular characters are even more rounded out, especially Eagleton, Ephram and Thump who are still charmingly innocently but less buffoonish. Eagleton in particular has a remarkable experience regarding and incident between a cabbie and a woman and the silver cross she gives Eagleton as a gift. Toby and Phileda McCannon get more to the point regarding their friendship -- could we be hearing wedding bells soon? Also, storyteller Isherwood Tolly doesn't let us down as he relates the tale of the wrong-heeled boots, then later leads Sundry and Daniel to John Neptune for an important contribution to the story.

The afterword hints that there is another adventure to come, possibly concerning the Mrs. Roberto, the ascensionist in the attractive suit of tights. Unfortunately, it doesn't hint at when, but Daniel Plainway should wholly absorb your attention from that distracting fact.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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