28 February 2011


Young Detectives: A is for Allison

Since "Young Detectives" is both a personal reading project and a special blog feature with its own badge, I wanted to make the posts that record my progress a little different from the usual Reading Diary entries. They'd have to be more character-centered, for one thing--but not the kind of posts I write for Character Connection.

Then there's the "A-Z Authors" format, which forces me to focus on the people behind the books more than I usually do. I mean, I know they're there and I know they're essential . . . but for all the books I've truly enjoyed, loved and felt enriched by, there are only two authors I've ever wanted to talk to.

Margaret Atwood once said that wanting to meet a writer because you like his book is like wanting to meet a rooster because you like fried chicken. (Yeah, the rooster--not the chef. One of the best similes of all time, I think.) I tend to agree with her. If I like what you write, I'll read more . . . and perhaps blog about your books to the world in general . . . but I wouldn't know what to say to you. I don't know you, mate!

So don't ask me why all the "Young Detectives" posts will be open letters to the authors about their precocious protagonists.

Yours Truly, Spying on the Rest of the World,
Perfectly Hidden behind my
Gilda Joyce books
(And so what if I never remove the price tags?)

Dear Jennifer Allison,

I've just finished reading the first two books in your
Gilda Joyce series for my "Young Detectives" challenge. It's a personal reading project I started in response to an A-Z Mystery Authors challenge hosted on another blog, which I almost joined had it not been for the unfortunate rule "Adult books only." (I know, right???)

When I started
Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator, I didn't know what to expect. Was the Splinters' home really haunted--or was your series to be a contemporary cross between the TV comedy Psych and Edith Nesbit's Story of the Treasure Seekers? In the former, as you might know, the main character is a private detective with a photographic memory and fantastic attention to detail who only pretends to be a psychic because it tickles his funny bone; and in the latter, all the "treasure" that the children find has obviously been planted by well-meaning grown-ups, in conspiracy with the condescending author herself. But I needn't have worried . . . All Gilda has in common with Shawn Spencer is a sense of humour that won't quit (and a sense of shame that gave up a long time ago--LOL!). And God help all the indulgent adults in the vicinity, should she ever decide she wants to be a real treasure hunter!

In other words, I'm glad the ghosts in your books are real. =) I'm even more glad that Gilda has no (non-psychic) proof that they are. (Was this a decision you made from the beginning, or did you find out that it worked better while you were in the middle of writing the book?) A "disbeliever" could easily nitpick Gilda's case files. How can she be sure that Juliet doesn't manipulate the Ouija board or that her own imagination doesn't do the "spontaneous writing" for her? I guess it takes a truly dedicated Psychic Investigator to know the difference between the real thing and the kind of smoke and mirrors games which Gilda does get from her new schoolmates in the second book.

It was really
Gilda Joyce and the Ladies of the Lake which got me interested in your series. Like Gilda, I went to an all-girls Catholic school in which ghost stories were as much a part of the living tradition as the liturgy. Unfortunately, I doubt my school really was haunted . . . although there was one year when we had one death a month--not students or teachers, but people with some connection to the school--and everyone was whispering about getting an exorcist. It would have been nice to have had Gilda around then.

And it would have been
FANTASTIC to have had Gilda around when I still lived in my old home, which really, truly was haunted. It still is. And that might be why it has sat empty for almost ten years. Despite its prime location and tasteful renovation, the house hasn't found anyone else willing to take it on since we sold it to the developers who thought it would make a good investment.

It would have been an even bigger challenge for Gilda, I'm sure, because even we wouldn't have been able to provide good leads. My grandparents built the house themselves, so it can't be the ghost of a former resident. And the disturbances started long before my great-grandmother died there, when the room we turned into a bedroom for her was still my grandfather's study. He claimed that he could smell flowers in there when there was nothing to account for them, and he moved his study into the games room. It didn't really work: when my rowdy aunts and uncles started hanging out in his former study with their friends, the fragrant ghost just moved to the newly quiet games room to be with my grandfather again. (And this is where skeptics like to wonder whether there was anything wrong with my grandfather's sense of smell. If a sense of smell can also move furniture in the night, then I'd take them more seriously.)

While we never figured out why our house might be haunted, we have a couple of theories. My favourite involves the midnight executions of some subversives from Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos' presidency: it's plausible to think that the military secretly murdered them in the wide, grassy field that later became our thriving gated community. And they would have gravitated to our home because it was the very first one built there! But perhaps that's just my family's collective guilt weaving its own myths? More due to political savvy than actual cronyism, my family did very well while Marcos was in power.

As you can see, I have no proof beyond the firsthand accounts of relatives whom I know to be trustworthy--
and since I'm the one telling them, they've gone on to depreciate into secondhand stories. In fact, in all my life I've never seen a ghost. I've felt creeped out, yes; but that could just be my imagination. I know lots of people who do see ghosts, however, and I have no reason to disbelieve them. (Perhaps Balthazar Frobenius would say these are my own psychic hunches?!) As it stands, I have coexisted peacefully with ghosts all my life and always feel insulted on their behalf when the people I talk to about them go scrabbling around for a "reasonable explanation." The ghosts I know of would get along with Gilda, too.



PS -- I've had some teaching experience, and I love Gilda just as much as Mr. Pante does for never having asked,
"Will this be on the test?"

PPS -- The part in which she dresses up as a middle aged smoker had me laughing out loud and disturbing patrons in Starbucks. And the panty joke that Mr. Pante had never seen before? Simply PRICELESS!

PPPS -- Gilda's letter to Pope Benedict XVI about women's ordination felt like a cheap shot, even if it was totally in character. Having said that, I hope she will be working with a (male) priest in the future. Priests are no skeptics when it comes to psychic phenomena, you know, even if they call it by different names. The third book I read for "Young Detectives" has such a priest.


Birdie said...

What a charming idea! I love the "open letter" format. I also loved learning about your old house.

I, too, like that the non psychic proof is withheld from books like this. I might just have to pick up a book or two from this series.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Birdie! =)

The non-psychic proof is held back only from Gilda. In each book, there is at least one person who can confirm a ghost sighting. I just find it so interesting that the one who gets everything that's going on is the one who has to take it all on faith.

I'll have the next open letter up next week. Feel free to join, if you want to. I'll link your post up to the next one so that you get some hits as well. =) Since this isn't an official challenge, I don't feel too guilty about feeding your addiction. ;-)

Birdie said...

Enbrethiliel--That sounds like such a cool premise in a series of books.

I might have to consider the open letter format! Sounds like fun!

Enbrethiliel said...


It is! I hope Allison sticks with it in the rest of the series.

I've just looked at this post again. That's a long open letter, isn't it? I feel as if I should thank you now for getting through it. The next one will be shorter, as I'll only be writing about one book.

mrsdarwin said...

That's it. You need to write a book about your family's haunted house. Work in some Tutor Tales. I'd buy it. Everyone would buy it. It would be AWESOME.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Mrs. Darwin. I wish I could say that the manuscript will be in your mailbox in six months, but I can't make any promises! ;-)