Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award 2015 — Nominated
Faith healers, movie moguls, and social-climbing fraudsters collide in Depression-era Los Angeles
It’s the Great Depression and Mary Mabel McTavish is suicidal. A drudge at the Bentwhistle Academy for Young Ladies (aka Wealthy Juvenile Delinquents), she is at London General Hospital when little Timmy Beeford is carried into emergency and pronounced dead. He was electrocuted at an evangelical road show when the metal cross on top of the revival tent was struck by lightning. Believing she’s guided by her late mother, Mary Mabel lays on hands. Timmy promptly returns to life.
William Randolph Hearst gets wind of the story and soon the Miracle Maid is rocketing from the Canadian backwoods to ’30s Hollywood. Jack Warner, J. Edgar Hoover, and the Rockettes round out a cast of Ponzi promoters, Bolshevik hoboes, and double-dealing social climbers in a fast-paced tale that satirizes the religious right, media manipulation, celebrity, and greed.
Driven to the brink of suicide by the thoughtlessly abusive adults around her, young Mary Mabel McTavish gains unsought fame when she brings Timmy Beeford back from the dead. A woman who can work miracles is of incomparable value to the con artists, newspaper magnates and well-intended extremists of the Depression era. guided by her late mother's voice, Mary Mabel is caught in a storm of attention as adults from skeptical reporter K.O Doyle to the intermittently lucid Brother Percy Brubacher contend to define and exploit her, scarcely considering what her views in the matter might be. Stratton's (Chanda's Secrets) comedic examination of celebrity in a bygone era, the novel acknowledges that media frenzies are in no way a uniquely modern phenomenon, nor is the way the people at the center of these frenzies are often helpless to prevent their public images from being molded to suit the great and powerful, the ambitious and the brazen opportunists. As the plot weaves back and forth across Canada and America, celebrities from Hoover to Hearst are skewered, but at no point does the book lose sight of its essential good nature or that of its protagonist.