Recommended for ages 12+
It’s 1908, and 17 year-old Rosalind Wallace, daughter of a self-made millionaire industrialist, is vacationing in England, spending time with her best friend, Cecily de Vere. Cecily’s family is high-society, old moneyed England, and treats Rosalind as more of a curiosity, even referring to her as “my peasant”. Where Cecily eschews intellectual pursuits and seeks a full dance card during party season, Rosalind is more adventurous; her father has used her to promote his inventions for years, and she’s quite brilliant. When her father calls for her to return back to the States by way of his newest venture, the Transatlantic Express – an underwater railway – Cecily and her handsome brother, Charles, offer to journey with Rosalind.
The problems begin almost immediately, when Charles goes missing while boarding the train; things take a turn for the worst when Cecily and her maid are discovered murdered in their room. Rosalind tries to deal with her grief while proving her innocence and conducting her own investigation into her friend’s murder.
There is so much rich material to draw on in The Transatlantic Conspiracy, but it never fully realized its potential. It’s promoted as a YA novel, but reads more like a middle grade book; the black and white illustrations throughout the book add to this overall look and feel. The characters are stiff, with little development; there are some interesting concepts glanced over, but we don’t get much in the way of development. The detective on the train is one-dimensional but borders on being so much more. Cecily is victimized by her lack of development; all we get is a vapid party girl who, it turns out, is more than she seems, but gets killed off so early on, that I guess we’ll eventually find out about her, posthumously, in subsequent adventures.
I was hoping for more from The Transatlantic Conspiracy. It may be a good introduction to readers who aren’t typical steampunk readers, but fans of the genre may be let down. I’m going to test this one out with the kids in my library and see how it goes; I’ll report back.