Butler creates a likable heroine and fine, atmospheric prose to draw readers along, but it's not enough to sustain the faulty plotting of this mystery. While on her paper route, Petra, 15, delivers a package to eccentric Edmund Century, who is about to turn 102. He forms a strange bond with Petra, and endows her with three odd gifts--the significance of which the reader never finds out--before he shortly thereafter dies. The secret of his attachment to her slowly and mysteriously unravels through a silhouette on her bedroom wall that Petra had nicknamed ""the Darkling"" when she was a child. This formerly harmless shadow takes on the spirit of Edmund Century and seeks out his long, lost love whose spirit resides in Petra. Add a spiritually possessed father, a sick brother, a disappearing housekeeper, and the father's child-molesting boss, and the plot thickens--to an outright muddle. The mystery never comes together: Resolutions remain elusive, except for those explanations with a basis in some confusing real-estate dealings; the storyline of the dead characters is a wedged-in afterthought.