Like most twelve-year-old girls, Martha O’Doyle would rather be at Coney Island than in a steamy classroom in September. An attempt to escape Sister Ignatius’ religion class turns into an argument about the book of Genesis and before she realizes it, Martha finds herself on a year’s leave from school.
Mrs. O’Doyle is not the least bit happy and decides to capitalize on this “teachable moment”. As the housekeeper at the home of Mr. J. Archer Sewell, newspaper tycoon, she can hire an extra maid. Besides, the additional income will help while Mr. O’Doyle is working the vaudeville circuit and always coming up short.
Martha expects to be bored amidst the dusty old furniture and dirty pots and pans. Then she discovers that Mr. Sewell has an eccentric wife locked in the attic, and things start to get interesting. Mr. Sewell charms the staff and high society alike, but Martha is skeptical. Mrs. Sewell has a strange habit of keeping her art collection in her room and sending down a solitary painting for display on the first floor. Are her selections random, or is there a hidden message in them?
Martha is a spunky, no-nonsense heroine who makes gutsy decisions. Although she makes mistakes, her common sense, observant nature and humor stand her in good stead. Sadly, Martha’s view of marriage suffers from this experience. Mr. Sewell is somewhat flirtatious, going so far as to kiss another woman in public. He does pay for it in the end. Martha suspects that even her mother may have a crush on him. Fortunately, Mrs. O’Doyle proves herself more astute at the conclusion of the story. This, coupled with Mr. O’Doyle’s drinking problem, leads Martha to decide never to marry and “be the hero of my own life”. That said, mystery lovers will enjoy this amusing caricature of the Roaring Twenties.
A former teacher, Jennifer Minicus is currently a full-time wife and mother.