Friday, August 12, 2011
Title: The Poisoned House
Author: Michael Ford
The year is 1855 and orphaned serving girl Abigail Tamper, 14, tries to escape Greave Hall, an austere London mansion, in the dead of night. She is hauled back and forced to work for Mrs. Cotton, cruel and devious housekeeper to senile Lord Greave. It isn't just the dreary residents who frighten Abi; there's something terribly amiss in the house. Glasses crash to the floor, rooms are turned topsy-turvy and then righted again when no one is looking, handprints appear in impossible places. Deepening Abi's dread is the upcoming anniversary of her mother's death. She pins her hopes for brighter days on the heir to the house, handsome Samuel Greave, who is returning as an injured hero from the Crimean War. The two played together in childhood, when Abi's mother was Master Samuel's nurse, and they share a brother/sisterlike bond. But the eerie occurrences only increase on his return. Is Abi's dead mother trying to tell her something? Every gothic trope is put to use here: the silent butler, a séance gone wrong, messages via Ouija board, secret alliances, out-of-wedlock pregnancies (two of them), and a last-minute will that changes everything. This ghost story is light fare, chilling, and suspenseful.
Despite being a bit predictable, this was a quick fun read. Several of the characters were a bit cliche, such as the Mrs. Danvers-esque housekeeper, but then again, this book was aimed at a younger audience, so they might not see them as I do. I would have liked some of the characters, such as Abi to be a little more fleshed out than they were. Overall, I really enjoyed this book.
Rating: 4 stars
** I received an electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.