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Summary: Welcome to Greave Hall, in 19th century England. Meet Abigail "Abi" Tamper (15) who has been a servant in the a mansion her whole life. Her mother was a servant here, too, but she died from a mysterious illness. Abi's father is rumored to be a criminal who abandoned his wife and daughter. The owner of the mansion, who wants to be called "His Lordship," is heart-sick, as his son Samuel left to fight in the Crimean War. His Lordship never leaves his room, which leaves Mrs. Cotton, his sister-in-law, in charge. She is an extremely strict boss; so strict that Abi tries to escape. She is caught, and Mrs. Cotton becomes more and more cruel. As she moves about the mansion, Abi begins to see strange marks, such as footprints and hand prints left by no one. At first she blames these marks on another servant playing a joke, but after a strange and scary incident one night, she realizes that a ghost is trying to communicate with her. Abi wants to communicate with this spirit, so she tries different ways to make that happen so she can find out who it is and what it wants. In discovering the identity of this ghost, Abi also finds out about her past and hidden secrets about the people around her. This novel is characterized as a ghost story for middle grade readers.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 12; read yourself: 10 and up
Young Reader Reaction: The Poisoned House is more a suspense novel than a ghost story. The book is very well written, and the author uses vivid words to describe gruesome images, so this it is a little bit scary. There are lots of unexpected twists, plenty of action, and violence in the end. I did not like having so many characters. The names get mixed up trying to keep track of so many people; characters are sometimes referred to by their first name, sometimes by their last names.
This book would be appropriate for middle-school students, because anyone younger would be too afraid by the descriptions. Anyone older than in middle school would be bored by the book, because the only action is towards the end of the book. Borrow it from the library because not everyone likes this specific genre. All in all, I really like the words that the author uses to describe objects and the dialogue is clever. In addition to this book, I would recommend other books of the similar mix of genres, such as Coraline and Shutter Island.
Adult Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Pros: There is a lot of suspense to keep readers going. The writing is exceptional and the dialogue is great.
Cons: Too many characters, and changing the way they are identified could get confusing for some readers ... especially those who are struggling with comprehension.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. Not everyone who likes suspense will like this if they don't like violent endings.
Educational Themes: This is a story meant for pleasure reading.
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - mystery, suspense, horror, action thriller, English history, family
Date(s) Reviewed: December 2011
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.