Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Annabel's mother has a boyfriend and she wants to spend the summer with the boyfriend and so Annabel gets shipped off to Wisconsin to live with her great aunt and uncle and various cousins for the summer. Annabel doesn't approve of her mother's new boyfriend and she resents being sent away.
The three teen cousins staying there too are Donna, Michael and Todd. These three have spent the summer there for several years and that makes Annabel an instant outsider. Especially intolerant is fifteen-year-old Todd, who call Annabel Clarabel the Cow, poking fun of the fact that Annabel is tall for her age (and much taller than Todd).
A few weeks before leaving for Wisconsin, Annabel's cat Muffin died. So not only is Annabel dealing with her mother's new circumstances, she is also grieving the loss of a beloved pet. She wakes up early one morning to the sound of a cat crying. She goes outside, worried about the cat and wanders into the woods where she is found by Old Pa, Aunt Lil's father who lives with his daughter and her husband. He tells her to leave the cat be and adds, "She'll be stirring soon...Always when there's young folks by. That's when she doesn't rest easy."
"She" turns out to be a neighbor, Julia Craig, who mysteriously vanished one day. She had a kerfluffle with Annabel's Uncle Alex long before Annabel was even born. She accused him of poisoning her cat and, ever since her disappearance, suspicion has fallen on Uncle Alex.
Now her spirit walks the night along with her ghost cat. And Julia has set her sights on Annabel because they have a connection about which Annabel knows nothing. The answer to the riddle can only be found in Julia's abandoned and decaying house.
For a kid's book, the was a pretty good read. The Julia Craig mystery was interesting and its solution neat and clever. The baggage caused by the mystery afflicts the whole group, as the Aunt and Uncle refuse to talk about it and Uncle Alex even gets a little hostile. Plus, Annabel has to deal with the constant put downs of evil cousin Toad, oops, I mean Todd.
The mystery was clever and engaging enough for an adult to enjoy yet remain on a level that would not be too scary for younger readers.