When 11-year-old Tabitha Crum receives a mysterious invitation for a weekend visit with the reclusive Countess of Windermere at Hollingsworth Hall circa 1907, she uncovers a diabolical plot that changes her life.
In the grand tradition of Roald Dahl, Tabitha’s despicable, neglectful parents force her to sleep in the attic and wear outgrown school uniforms. Her only friend’s a pet mouse. Before Tabitha departs for Hollingsworth, her parents announce they are leaving and sending her to an orphanage as soon as her visit is over. When Tabitha arrives at Hollingsworth, she meets five more clueless kids. Influenced by Inspector Pensive novels, Tabitha readily shifts into detective mode when the eccentric countess reveals she will be interviewing each child to determine which one is her missing grandchild, destined to inherit £100,000. During the isolation imposed by a freak snowstorm, an elderly maid dies under suspicious circumstances, ghostly groans echo behind walls, the countess becomes disturbingly nasty, and children disappear. Dauntlessly exploring nooks and crannies, Tabitha unravels the twisted, shocking truth and finds a real family and friends. Themes of friendship and family permeate this darkly humorous, melodramatic period thriller. Sketchy black-and-white illustrations add to the macabre mood.
A plucky amateur detective, secret passages, exaggerated characters, concealed identities, and dastardly villains equal a swell mystery. (Mystery. 8-12)