By Author / Illustrator
Chicken House Ltd
Paperback / softback
'Family secrets, a ghost girl and a forbidding manor house that goes up in smoke ... You can't help rooting for Agatha in this spooky, addictive tale of friendship and family.' THE TIMES
The Lake District, 1899. The Earl is dead and cruel Cousin Clarence has inherited everything. Twelve-year-old Lady Agatha Asquith is cast out of Gosswater Hall to live in a tiny, tumbledown cottage with a stranger who claims to be her father. Aggie is determined to discover her real identity, but she is not alone on her quest for the truth. On the last day of the year, when the clock strikes midnight, a mysterious girl of light creeps through the crack in time; she will not rest until the dark, terrible secrets of the past have been revealed...
I cannot recommend this book too highly. It has so many elements of a good story: rich and believable characters, atmospheric setting and an intricate, cleverly woven plot. The pace is brisk, but with moments to draw breath and reflect; the mystery of Aggie's family history is tantalisingly revealed, so that readers share Aggie's own surprise; and the many moments of danger are chilling in the extreme. Don't take this book to bed!
I can see this being used by Key Stage 2 teachers in class English lessons, by dint of all the wonderfully descriptive passages, the beautiful use of language to evoke place and mood, not to mention how the author devises and shapes the plot for maximum drama and suspense.
A child would probably choose different passages to highlight, but my favourite bits were the more intimate moments. I found myself engrossed in the conversation between Bryn and Aggie in the sheep byre: willing Aggie to heed his wisdom, but aware that she was far more inclined to hold onto the past and remain trapped by its darkness.
Also, the times with Thomas, in which the chill in their relationship is just beginning to thaw, only to be frozen again by another sudden turn of events. But Aggie's reconciliation with the idea of a new future in which striving for status and revenge has no place (which comes in the last chapter) is worth waiting for.
When Aggie finally realises what she really wants in life ('learning how to cook bacon so that it tastes like bacon', among other humble aspirations), it's both brilliant and beautiful. A fitting end to a memorable story.
320 pages / Reviewed by Jane Rew, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 9+