Mullarkey's first novel places a friendship between opposites at the center of this lightly bewitching story. Small and timid Laura Adson, 12, has never given much thought to Mrs. Blackert, the reclusive elderly neighbor in the ivy-covered house next door. Laura's best friend, Cara, is convinced that Mrs. Blackert is a witch and that her dozen orange cats are her familiars. Laura would rather leave well enough alone, but Cara, who is brilliant and curious--as well as a bit of a bully--badgers Laura into helping her spy on Mrs. Blackert. When Mrs. Blackert gets a hold of Cara's glasses and hat she gains an unexpected power over the girl; everyone in town thinks Cara has simply disappeared, but Laura knows that her friend is trapped in a portrait on Mrs. Blackert's dining room wall, along with other misplaced people. Laura's reluctant and skeptical first-person narration voices readers' disbelief, and so lures them in; Cara, as the dominant friend, is more strikingly characterized. In this spooky story, the most frightening aspect of it may be the way the two girls successfully avoid explaining events to their parents. An ominous detail at the end foretells more to come.