Friday, July 15, 2011

Ford, Michael: The Poisoned House

August 2, 2010
Bloomsbury Publishing
Galley from Publisher (via NetGalley)

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.

This book, at least in my opinion, was a bit of a disappointment. I was rather fond of Abi, who seemed to be able to hold her own - and never gave up her dream of escaping Mrs. Cotton and the odd hold of Greave Hall. However, the sudden, extremely unexpected twist of the killer's identity was dismaying. It was almost as though the author was like, "What the heck? Let's just end this once and for all," and played a wild game of Mad Libs to finish off the story.

I have to admit, though, that the details of the story were well thought out. Some important social issues of the time are included, such as the ruination of many a poor servant girl by a seemingly charming rake, and the consultation of a Spiritualist in order to get to the bottom of a supposed haunting. So, at the very least, it's worth a read for the historical research involved.

(I know. I'm such a historical geek.)

Warnings: Touchy social issues - ie. a maid gets pregnant and is dismissed from the household. Scary scenarios, if ghosts and deliberate murder get your hackles bristling.


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