Reviews for Fiddler's Green, or a Wedding, a Ball, and the Singular Adventures of Sundry Moss by Van Reid
From Publishers Weekly - The fifth installment in Reid's charming series about rural Maine's Moosepath League tracks familiar faces through an epic wedding, a society ball and a bizarre backwoods feud that gets one Moosepathian in hot water. The primary protagonist is wise "gentleman's gentleman" Sundry Moss, who observes the joyous 1897 nuptials of Moosepath chairman Tobias Walton and willowy Phileda McCannon, which are very nearly ruined by the inexplicable appearance of a keg marked "rum" that's filled with turpentine. Moss tests the romantic waters with the fetching Priscilla Morningside at a Portland ball shortly after the wedding, but their fledgling courtship is interrupted when Moss becomes part of a plan to help young Melanie Ring, previously camped out in a coal cellar with her alcoholic father and disguised as a boy, move with her father to Brownville. As the journey progresses, Melanie is spirited away by the peculiar Charles Normall, and Moss is also engaged by the man to scour the local pond for the body of a young drowning victim. Reid recaptures the optimistic, homey, quirky tone of his earlier books in the wedding and ball sections, and the later murder mystery adds a touch of darkness, while a parallel story involving an optimistic sailor searching for the titular, possibly mythical paradise offers a compelling counterplot. This will undoubtedly please Reid's numerous fans. - Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.
From Booklist - Three of the remarkable gentlemen of the Moosepath League, Portland, Maine, 1897, take a backseat to the premier two, Toby Walton and his valet and friend, Sundry Moss. It is Toby's wedding to the glorious Phileda that takes up the first third of this latest installment in Reid's popular series; these two then go off to honeymoon and to adopt a nephew. Sundry (we learn he does indeed have a twin named Various), smitten himself with a graceful lass burdened with a controlling mother, instead takes up adventures involving the permanent extrication of a small child from her drunken father and the settling of a bizarre feud. Through it all marches the folklore sailor Robin Oig, oar in hand, looking for Fiddler's Green, "a form of Paradise." Reid's language is so pristine, his manners so elegant, his characters so eccentric that the three men in a boat--or Bertie Wooster--would feel right at home. An absolutely guiltless pleasure. - GraceAnne DeCandido, Copyright © American Library Association.
From the Maine Sunday Telegram -
Portland emerges from the book just the way we'd like it to have been - a gem of a city plying the shipping trade across the vast sea that lines its bustling wharves. Maine emerges as a place of railroads, connecting settlements across a vast wilderness with the hub city to their south. And it emerges, too, as a still-untamed place where clans trump communities and, in settlements far from the bustle of city life, feuding families may still believe in witchcraft. In such an environment, travelers must depend on strong individuals, whether they be valets, blacksmiths or wandering sailors, to safeguard their lives.
Like a little kid running to catch up with a parade, I came late to the Moosepath League. "Fiddler's Green" is the first novel I have read in a series that started with "Cordelia Underwood - Or the Marvelous Beginnings of the Moosepath League." The latest book has its elongated title too, being known as "Fiddler's Green - Or a Wedding, a Ball and the Singular Adventure of Sundry Moss."
No question, Sundry Moss (twin brother of Varius, to give you a taste of the book's dry wit) deserves his place in the title. He has earned it as friend and aide to Tobias Walton, the well-born and even better bred president of the Moosepath League. To call Moss a "gentleman's gentleman," however, would be like calling John F. Kennedy a government worker. Moss is a valet, yes, but he is so much more.
In "Fiddler's Green," for one thing, Sundry Moss is a man falling in love. In fact, love moves the book from its beginning, as Tobias Walton prepares to wed the wise and compassionate Phileda McCannon. Soon the other charter members of the League are assembled - Joseph Thump of India Street; Christopher Eagleton of Chestnut Street, and Matthew Ephram of Danforth Street, all with their peculiar eccentricities. Like a Dickensian novel pushing its way to the edge of each page, these characters spring into wholehearted life and into a story that honors qualities worth honoring.
Sundry Moss sets out to save a 6-year-old girl, whose past is a dark place of danger and foreboding, from an even darker fate that awaits her. Sadly, even in the midst of prosperity, Portland knew the perils of risk and the pain of loss. As Reid recounts it, "Portland is a city by the sea, and few people living there toward the end of the 19th century were without some wandering boy in their family history. Many . . . had sons or grandsons who were somewhere on the high sea or seeking their fortune out west."
Others, however, were caught in the even harsher jaws of alcoholism and poverty, poverty so dire that the child Moss sets out to save had been living with her dying father in the dank underbelly of a flop house on the city's waterfront.
The intelligence that lights these pages, however, provides comforting reassurance that even when prospects seem bleakest, events will turn out all right. Reid keeps that comfort level constant and buoys it with humor, both of which add richly to our enjoyment. Like the sailor, searching for "Fiddler's Green," his vision of paradise, we know our journey won't be wasted.
The members of the Moosepath League may be a bit dotty, but they are loyal and steadfast. All of which makes them a memorable encounter.
As Jared McCannon, a passing character acknowledges, "He had met the Moosepath League in the summer of the previous year but had perhaps wondered, in the meantime, if he had imagined it."
He didn't. But Van Reid did. And for that readers can be grateful. - Nancy Grape of Freeport is a free-lance writer.Copyright © 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.