A biracial (Chinese/white) Australian girl unravels art-historical and familial mysteries at a relative’s estate in rural Spain.
Iris Chen-Taylor, 12, has an uncomfortable mission from her parents: to discover who stands to inherit eccentric Great-Aunt Ursula’s massive Spanish estate, Bosque de Nubes. Iris’ parents suspect Ursula has a paramour, and they claim an interest in keeping the estate in the family. In the countryside beyond Barcelona, Ursula maintains the estate and the memory of her late brother, James, whose surrealist paintings are highly sought after. Iris’ parents have instructed her to ingratiate herself with the old lady and to make notes on the building’s structural integrity, but once at Bosque de Nubes (in English, “Forest of Mist”), Iris is disturbed, perplexed, and enchanted by turns when she discovers such oddities as sunflowers playing tennis and a pair of willful boots attached to real-seeming human feet. Iris quickly enlists help from Jordi, the white son of Ursula’s groundskeeper, to unravel the intertwined mysteries of the estate, its grounds, and her uncle’s paintings. Is art imitating life or the other way around? And what do the pushy neighbors want with those cagey land surveyors? Readers will happily go along for the ride as Iris and Jordi combine method and adventure to solve these riddles.
A quirky, cleareyed enchantment. More like this, please! (Mystery. 10-14)