Joan Aiken is no doubt the busiest body in the gothic revival, with stories of outrageously cheerful improbability. Ganging aglae here from New York to England to Scotland with Valla (short for Valhalla--equal to her name) who abandons her stuffed dress-shirt fiance to go and look for her half brother, Nils, in England. He and his wife have disappeared leaving two children in grundgy digs. Valla retrieves them and takes them to Scotland to stay with an old retainer of the family; she reluctantly gives houseroom to brother Nils, in sorry shape--more than the fact that his wife has been killed; she finds out who the Bermondsey Beast (multiple murderer of fallen women) really is--a Lord--and she somehow manages to survive him where others fail. The plot and the parlance thicken to a "silly flisk-mahoy" but it's surely much better than all those others you'd like to whisht away.