Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Review: The Poisoned House, by Michael Ford

I've been in the mood for spooky books this season, and The Poisoned House did not disappoint.

It's 1850s England, and Greave Hall is a depressing place. The mistress of the house has been dead 20 years. Her sister, Mrs. Cotton, is cruel and tries to take on the roll of the lady of the house. She can do this because the master of the house stays to his rooms and is reportedly going senile. There is speculation that this is because his son, Samuel, is fighting in the Crimean war.

Abi, the narrator, is perfectly depicted as a teen servant girl in the 1850s. After being caught trying to run away, she works hard and tries not to make waves, but of course laments her lot in life and wishes for something better. She is still mourning the death of her mother a year ago. After reading about the harsh Victorian life of servitude and the cruelty of Mrs. Cotton, one can't help but root for Abi.

My favorite thing about this book was the pacing. There was always something happening--ghostly hand prints, objects being rearranged, and apparitions at the window. I never wanted to put the book down. I wouldn't say it was "breakneck," but steady.

The other interesting thing about the book is the plot twists. I enjoyed the fact that some of the servants were playing tricks to make Mrs. Cotton believe there was a ghost, but Abi is really experiencing ghostly occurrences, and she believes it's her mother sending her a message. Not only is there a ghost to deal with, but Samuel is coming home, and he is injured. Lizzy, the other servant and Abi's friend, gets herself into trouble, and Abi believes that her mother may have been murdered by Mrs. Cotton.

Even though there is some ghostly assistance, Abi is a resourceful girl who works hard to figure out the mystery of her mother's death, and all of the other mysteries surrounding Greave Hall--and this IS a mysterious place. The ending is great -- maybe too great, but I loved how everything is exposed.

Ford has created a quick, spooky, delightful mystery that can be enjoyed by teens or adults. Add this one to your pile for Halloween!

Published by Albert Whitman & Company, August 1, 2011
Copy obtained from the library.
319 pages

Rating: 4/5

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