A young orphan finds friends and begins to unravel the mysteries of her family at a gloomy Victorian resort.
Eleven-year-old Stella Montgomery is struggling to meet the expectations of three imperious aunts: Deliverance, Condolence, and Temperance. Blessed with wealth but not good health, the Aunts have been dragging Stella from one fancy but grim establishment to another for years. Stella is curious about the world around her, and though she’s too well-mannered to openly defy her aunts’ directives to be seen and not heard, she’s too much of an independent spirit to stay locked in her closet-sized room when she could be exploring the Hotel Majestic late at night. This adventurous inclination lands Stella in trouble when she witnesses a gruesome, supernatural murder in the hotel’s conservatory. Entrusted with the care of a mysterious, tiny stoppered bottle filled with a silvery substance, Stella must evade cockney kidnappers, befriend both a resourceful young dancer and the kindly wrangler of a feline choir, and eventually confront the menacing Professor. Along the way, she pieces together details about her late parents and learns that she has special skills that can only derive from fey ancestry. The quasi-gothic details, plucky heroine, and brisk pacing all conjure classics from Joan Aiken to Lemony Snicket.
The conclusion clearly sets up a sequel, and readers will clamor for it. (Adventure. 9-12)