Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Format: eGalley (courtesy of Netgalley)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Supernatural, Young Adult
Publication Date: 8.02.2011
The year is 1856, and orphan Abigail Tamper lives below stairs in Greave Hall, a crumbling manor house in London. Lord Greave is plagued by madness, and with his son Samuel away fighting in the Crimea, the running of Greave Hall is left to Mrs Cotton, the tyrannical housekeeper. The only solace for the beleaguered staff is to frighten Mrs Cotton by pretending the house is haunted.
So when a real ghost makes an appearance - that of her beloved mother - no one is more surprised than Abi. But the spirit has a revelation that threatens to destroy Abi’s already fragile existence: she was murdered, and by someone under their very own roof. With Samuel returned to England badly wounded, it’s up to Abi to nurse him back to health, while trying to discover the identity of the killer in their midst. As the chilling truth dawns, Abi’s world is turned upside down.
I just can't get enough of thrilling supernatural stories these days, and the fact that The Poisoned House combined that with historical fiction was just too much for me to stay away from. When I started reading The Poisoned House, it had the feel of Clue--only set in an earlier time period, and with the inclusion of a ghost. It stopped feeling like that about half-way through, but I loved that connection in the beginning.
The historical aspect is beautifully done with vivid descriptions of life below stairs, and the customs of the time period. The book starts out with a note from the narrator, which hints to the strangeness of the events that follow. It then moves on to a servant who attempts to escape from Greave Hall, foreshadowing future events along the way--possibly my favorite scene from the book.
Being a story that includes a ghost, there is a fair amount of supernatural events in most of the book; hand prints on windows, objects misplaced, windows and doors left open or closing unexpectedly, some other spooky occurrences, and overall, a lingering sense of unease that comes from a house full of secrets. I was disappointed that this all seemed to fizzle out towards the end, though. The story of those still alive took over, and the ghost story didn't play much of a part after that.
The conclusion was a bit far-fetched (I'm not sure things would have played out like that...especially in that time period), but I liked it. I also didn't guess who the murder was until 3/4 of the way into the book; with a little twist, the author threw me for a loop, and I was scrambling to re-think my clues towards the end...which is awesome, because it is so anti-climactic when the person you think did it from the beginning really did do it. Amiright?
With vivid descriptions and some good twists, this is a good book to read if you like historical fiction and murder mysteries. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a full-on ghost story, though.
...you are like historical fiction murder mysteries with a side of the supernatural.
*This section may contain some spoilers about content!*