Eighteen-year-old Maria Santos is in the witness protection program until she can testify against her mother’s murderer—a man who may have Islamic State group connections.
Edinburgh, Scotland, is far from the dangers of Boston. However, Maria’s new au pair job at Harley, a dilapidated estate owned by the Carlisles, is proving to be equally dangerous. While helping the two Carlisle children cope with the death of their mother, Lady Kate, Maria discovers secrets and the supernatural at Harley. A hooded figure, whom only Maria sees, stalks the grounds, and the last au pair died suspiciously, which makes Maria fear for her safety and sanity. Even more frightening, the children talk about their mother as if she’s still around, and someone wants the children to join Lady Kate in death. Still grieving her mother and abandoned life in Boston, Maria finds solace in Jonathan, the elder Carlisle son. Unfortunately, both the romance and Maria’s grief seem artificial. Maria conveys the air of a much older woman rather than a teenager trapped in a traumatic situation, thus making it difficult to justify the novel as young-adult fiction. The isolated estate, dark family secrets, and supernatural elements (albeit limited) will appeal to gothic-literature fans.
Even genre readers may have difficulty connecting with Maria on an emotional level, and for all its mysteries and secrets, the story underwhelms. (Suspense. 13 & up)