Inkwell’s second novel (Vickie Van Helsing, 2011) teems with kind ghosts, family secrets and supernormal powers.
Eleven-year-old Thelma Thimblewhistle is a bookish, socially awkward only child. After her mother’s death, she moves with her father, Edwin, to his hometown of Raven Den, Tenn. Raven Den is home to Thelma’s charming, scrapbook-loving grandmother, Mimi, along with a complicated ghostly legacy. On Thelma’s first night in Raven Den, she receives a visit from the ghost of Anna, Mimi’s friend from childhood. So begin Thelma’s seemingly endless encounters with nonhuman entities, from a talking desk and fountain pen to a ghost cat that only she can see. Thelma learns that she carries a serious responsibility in what is known as the Neither Realm. The Neither Realm, which functions as a kind of purgatory or way station after death, is “named so for it is neither here…nor there.” The hierarchy of the Neither Realm is elaborate. There are many positions to hold, from Spirit Guide (an advisory role) to a Phantomite (an inanimate object who can think and speak). Thelma discovers she is Defender of the Dead, which means she must thwart the plans of the evil (and imprisoned) Felix Payne. Felix, who traded his human life for more access to power, is not the single source of danger in Thelma’s world. Her father’s boss, Victor Von Hallow, plans to kill Thelma to realize his own megalomaniac dreams: freeing Felix from prison and becoming his leader. The connections between the ghosts in Thelma’s house and the ones at her father’s office seem contrived; there’s more than enough rich material to mine in Thelma’s experiences. When Felix possesses the body of a Nazi officer, the story’s dip into actual history feels incongruous. Despite the Nazi, the tone is generally light. The various terms of the Neither Realm, however, are exhausting. Although Thelma and Edwin are close, their rapport seems to inadvertently verge on flirtation and isn’t quite believable.
A detailed gothic world beyond the realm of mortals.