After watching her vicious cousin kill her pet goldfish—and cook it!—orphan Edie is more than willing to be sent to a girls’ boarding school to act as a spy.
Anastasia, a wealthy Russian princess (but not the famous one), is either being ruthlessly harassed or she’s melodramatically creating a series of situations in which she appears to be the victim. Her father wants to know which, and embedding Edie at the school seems like the perfect way to find out. But the challenges are nearly insurmountable in this atmospheric mystery. Portentous clues abound, and Edie is forced to re-evaluate her first guess that an angry student is responsible for Anastasia’s woes. She becomes increasingly suspicious of staff members, and each adult’s actions begin to take on plausible second meanings. With no responsible person to trust, tension swiftly ratchets upward. A strong British flavor pervades the tale, but many American readers will be familiar with the language and ideas from other imports. The third-person narration effectively conveys both Edie’s spunky attitude and her sense of isolation; Anastasia is less well-developed, but leaving her a bit inscrutable serves to enhance the mystery. A secondary plotline that emerges—an uncertain connection between the headmistress and Edie’s mother—adds enticing red herrings.
A fine mystery that will keep readers engaged until the final, scary reveal—and leave them eager for the next volume in the series. (Mystery. 11-14)