Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review: The Poisoned House by Michael Ford

✰✰✰½ Travel back in time to Victorian England with this entertaining ghost story by Michael Ford. Abigail "Abi" Tamper is a scullery maid employed at Greave Hall in London in 1855. Her mother died during the recent cholera outbreak leaving Abi orphaned. Abi is now at the mercy of Mrs. Cotton, the cruel housekeeper who is also the sister-in-law of Lord Greave. Filled with despair, the young girl decides to run away from Greave Hall only to be caught and returned to a life of misery and drudgery.

As she accepts her fate, there is an air of change in Greave Hall.  Lord Greave's son, Master Samuel "Sammy" Greave, returns from fighting in the Crimean War. He has suffered a disabling injury and requires constant care. As a child, Sammy was  like a brother to Abi. However, young Abi soon learns that things are not always what they seem.

A series of paranormal events leads Abi to believe that her mother may not have died a natural death. Abi begins to believe that she is being haunted by ghost; she suspects it's her mother warning her from the grave. Prompted by the haunting, Abi begins to investigate the secrets of the house and its inhabitants. As Lord Greave slowly goes mad, Abi must find a way to reveal the truth before someone else gets hurt.

The Bottom Line: The story of Abigail Tamper is told from the viewpoint of a 15 year old girl's "handwritten manuscript."  This ghost story is a quick read with a few predictable twists and turns. Abigail Tamper is a believable character who values friendship. The elements of suspense and the supernatural in a Gothic setting that will appeal to many YA readers, especially girls. While The Poisoned House is entertaining and fun, it is not overly scary. Also, I was surprised to find more than a few typographical errors and misspellings. Recommended for teens and tweens who enjoy reading historical fiction with classic suspense and mystery components.

Details: The Poisoned House by Michael Ford. Hardcover published by Albert Whitman & Company in 2011. 328 p. ISBN: 978-0-8075-6589-6

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